By Alvin Worzi and William Q. Harmon
Residents in the bustling commercial district of Red-Light, in Paynesville, were shocked when the commander of a nearby depot of the Liberia National Police (LNP) fatally shot a commercial motorcyclist after the victim had allegedly resisted arrest. The environment became tense when the news broke that the gun-wielding police commander, Roosevelt Dehmie, had shot and killed 32-year-old Beyan Lamin, a very popular motorcyclist in his community.
Lamin met his untimely death at his doorstep, following a row with the law enforcement officer. Reports indicate that the victim catered to residents of Pipeline Community, in Paynesville.
Eye-witnesses said Lamin was earlier arrested by Dehmie, who demanded that Lamin follow him to his depot, though the commander did not explain why he was taking him to the police annex.
“We appealed to him [the Commander] to seize the bike and release Lamin but he refused and started manhandling Lamin,” an eye-witness said.
“During that time, Lamin asked his sister to take a picture of the scuffle with the commander to serve as evidence. It was at this point that Lamin attempted to run away from him and the commander reacted by shooting him,” the witness said.
The victim was a former student of the University of Liberia, his father David Lamin told the Daily Observer.
Another version of the story reported that officer Dehmie had pulled the victim over for what he called traffic violation, claiming that the victim was plying the streets beyond the government’s regulated time of 10pm for commercial motorcyclists. The victim then argued that said regulation was not in effect any longer, as per the recent announcement by the LNP in which a ban on commercial motorcyclists was relaxed. The victim requested the officer to release him on grounds that the officer had no reason to pull him over.
Minutes later, eyewitnesses say, the argument became intense between the two men and later the victim began to flee from the scene on his bike. At this stage, officer Dehmie immediately pursued the victim on foot. The victim reached his residence and disembarked from his motorcycle when officer Dehmie, who had drawn his weapon, pointed it at the back of the unarmed motorcyclist.
Family sources said the victim attempted to enter his room when officer Dehmie pulled the trigger, shooting him in the back as family members took to their heels in fear.
Beyan Lamin was one of seven children, according to his father, who rode the motorbike to pay his school fees. The victim’s residence was a scene of anguish and wailing yesterday as his death news went through the community and residents came in their numbers to console his parents.
It was surprising that motorcyclists, who over the years had been uncompromising during such incidents, withheld their anger and did not engage in violence.
According to the victim’s father David Lamin, the Inspector General of Police Patrick Sudue has promised to ensure justice in his son’s death.
Mr. Lamin, who works for the Liberia Agriculture Company in Compound-3, Grand Bassa County, said they will work along with the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the Motorcyclists Union to ensure that the process is not delayed.
“While I was in Grand Bassa Compound-3 this morning, I received a phone call from my daughter, demanding my presence in Monrovia, because the situation was very serious. I was shocked when I reached Monrovia and heard that my son was shot by a police officer,” Mr. Lamin, 56, said in tears.
Kebbeh Lamin, sister of Beyan, told the Daily Observer that prior to officer Roosevelt killing her brother, she and other community dwellers begged the officer to have mercy on her brother.
“I was called [outside] by his baby-mother and I immediately ran there and began to beg the officer to let him go but he refused to even talk with us. After my brother gave me his phone to take his picture, another officer told Roosevelt not to allow me to take the picture and it was the time my brother decided to escape but got shot,” Madam Lamin explained in tears.
She said officer Roosevelt was first alone but later he called for additional officers who came on a bike. She said other neighbors were also present during the incident and begged the officer to leave her brother alone, but he would not.
Meanwhile Commander Dehmie also sustained a bullet wound but, according to Kebbeh and other eyewitnesses, the officer deliberately shot himself after he shot Lamin.
“I was shocked today to hear that the officer shot himself to claim that he and my brother were fighting over the gun when he got shot,” Kebbeh said.
According to residents, motorcyclists on Monday morning gathered at the Turtle-Base Police Depot, in what appeared to be an attempt to retaliate for their colleague’s death. But they were calmed down by their leaders and an intervention of LNP Emergency Response Unit (ERU) officers.
Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue told a press conference that the LNP is aware of the incident and that the issue of the firearm will be dealt with.
Pressure Group Condemns Police Action
A political pressure group, the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), has condemned the action of Commander Dehmie, saying that Liberia is not a military state where security officers use firearms at will.
“Why should you kill a struggling motorcyclist who is trying to earn a living for his family? This is very inhumane and wicked,” the EFFL said in a statement on Monday.
The group said an investigation conducted by its intelligence arm uncovered that the victim refused to bribe the officer, which led to the row that eventually ended his life.
“We are calling on the hierarchy of the LNP to immediately investigate the matter and bring the perpetrator to justice,” the statement said. The EFFL also extended its deepest condolences to the bereaved family, while at the same time the group sent out a caveat to the government that the brutal death of peaceful citizens is not in the interest of the country.
“We will not allow our countrymen to be intimidated by henchmen of this regime. Moving forward, the EFFL has commissioned her District Commander and its members in the Soul Clinic Community to work alongside the Motorcyclists Union in making sure that Commander Dehmie is brought to justice,” they said in a statement.
The remains of the late Lamin were deposited at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center morgue in Sinkor, while Commander Dehmie, who is reported to have deliberately shot his hand, was treated at a local clinic.