Armed men “dressed in police uniform” went about terrorizing and raiding communities in the Paynesville area during the early morning hours of Saturday, August 30, shortly after midnight, making away with lots of cash, jewelry and other valuables and leaving at least one person severely injured.
GSA Road, Voker Mission and Duport Road were among the communities victimized by the early Saturday morning raid.
Voker Mission residents say huge men, “armed with pistols and dressed in police uniforms”, raided two concrete homes in their community and “threatened to kill” anyone who came outside. The first home attacked was that of Mr. Peter George, a dietitian at the United States Embassy near Monrovia.
Mr. George told the Observer that shortly after midnight, he heard loud banging at his door by men ordering him and his family to open the door. They eventually burst the door open and told Mr. George, “We are coming to kill you. You are the one we came for.”
“Immediately,” he continued, “one of the men slashed me on my head with a knife, while another went into my daughter’s room and threatened to [rape] her and take away her baby if she did not surrender her phone. So she gave the phone. The money I had, they took – US$500, plus L$1000.”
Mr. George said the men also took three phones belonging to him his wife and daughter.
George says he was bleeding so profusely that he fainted. After the robbers left his house, his family took him to the home of a nurse in the community; due to the extent of the bleeding, however, she could not do much for him, except to wrap his head in orderto slow down the bleeding. That bought him some time until daybreak, when he was taken to another clinic where he was told that one of veins near his temple was cut. He was treated with six stitches.
Residents narrated that the day before, an unidentified man came into their community asking for “the man who works for the US Embassy”. But he was told by residents that they knew of no such person, and the man left. Mr. George, 65, says he had just taken pay and brought home his salary which he and his wife Mary (in her mid-fifties) had planned to use for their ‘official’ wedding. (They had been married traditionally.) He says that the stranger coming to ask for him gives him reason to believe he may have been a target from the onset.
The armed robbers left the George residence and went to other homes in the community, including that of Mr. Franco Grimes, a consultant at Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), terrorizing the home and demanding money and other valuables from him and his wife, Eva. The men took away their phones, his office laptop, cash, as well as the couple’s wedding bands.
“When [we] tried to yell for help,” Eva narrated, “the men told us that no one was going to come, so we should stop wasting our breath and just give them what they wanted.”
Other residents of Voker Mission heard the commotion, but were too terrified to confront the armed men in full police uniform.
“I could see them through my window, but I called my contacts at the Zone 5 police depot and was told there was no car available to come to our aid,” said Voker Mission Youth Chairman Varney Gray. “And we couldn’t go out and confront the armed robbers because they threatened to shoot anyone who came out.”
Several community members including Gray and Mr. George said they saw the men dressed up in police uniform, identifiable by the Liberian flag on the shoulder. According to them, the robbers had bright flashlights shining into their victims’ faces to obstruct any possibility of being identified, while also holding pistols to their victims’ heads.
Outside of the Grimes’ home, residents discovered a pair of handcuffs with ‘NATIONAL POLICE’ engraved on them. The group got away in a vehicle they had parked on the outskirts of the community.
The GSA Road and Duport Road communities had a very similar experience. Explaining his ordeal to the Daily Observer, Mr. Daniel David of GSA Road said while they were asleep, a group of men armed with cutlasses and single barrel guns stormed their community and broke into five rooms in his house.
“When they entered the room, they started beating on us with their cutlasses and told us to give them money. They took away everything in our rooms including money,” Mr. David explained in tears.
“What is this?” he wondered. “The government announced the curfew. See now, there is no security to protect us.”
Explaining about the arrest of the alleged robbers, Mr. David said, “After raiding us, we recognized one of them; so we decided to inform our brothers on the Duport road side about the incident.”
It was after providing the information, according to him, that they decided to organize some members of both the Duport Road and the GSA Road communities to locate and arrest the robbers.
“Every one of us took our cutlasses and we went from ghetto to ghetto in the communities in search of them. It was after that that we managed to arrest them,” he told our reporter.
Up to Saturday afternoon, about 15 alleged armed robbers had been arrested and detained at the Zone Five Police Depot in Paynesville. Residents are concerned that armed robberies occurring deep inside communities may be opportune for villains while the police remain on the on the main road (Tubman Boulevard), manning check points during the curfew hours.
Worse yet, armed robbers dressed as a squad of policemen could either validate alleged police involvement or suggest that police equipment may be susceptible to theft creating the serious problem of impersonation.
Residents of Voker Mission, however, believe that they were raided by mid-level policemen, given how well-dressed they were, the weaponry they commanded, the manner in which they conducted the operation, the handcuffs they left behind and the fact that they had access to a vehicle.
The Liberia National police, when contacted, said they were investigating the armed robbery incidents and were not ready to respond.