Liberia: 'Overwhelming Crowd Resulted to Police Killing Protester'

-Police investigative report reveals

A police investigative report regarding the shooting to death of a protester, Abraham Tumay, by officers of the Police Support Unit (PSU) on June 24, 2019 in the Kingsville Township #7, Montserrado County was on Monday, July 15 released to the Monrovia City Court, where the report blamed the police action on "overwhelming crowd."

The document, identified as "police charge sheet," was released after four PSU officers were charged following days of internal investigation. The four officers were subsequently forwarded to the City Court to face their crime of negligent homicide.

They are Morris M. Dahn, Emmanuel S. Melikamue, Thompson W. Pobleh, and Josephus Lewis, all officers of the PSU. They were charged following days of internal investigation. The four officers were subsequently forwarded to the court to face their crime of negligent homicide.

According to a legal expert, negligent homicide is a much lower intent crime, and is used as a charge when one person causes the death of another through criminal negligence.

"Even though it is the lowest category of homicide offenses, negligent homicide is still a serious offense. Punishment for negligent homicide ranges from 180 days up to two years in prison," the legal expert informed the Daily Observer.

The shooting occurred when the locals staged a protest by setting roadblock on a major highway, during which police claimed that the residents were obstructing the free flow of human and vehicular traffic.

Their protest was triggered by the alleged delay in police investigation regarding the "mysterious disappearance and deaths of two children, Thomas Kollie, 10, and Elijah Porlume, 9, both of whom are residents of the Kingsville community. The two children reportedly went missing on May 30 and 31, respectively, but their bodies were discovered badly mutilated with body parts extracted.

The residents also claimed that the police were doing nothing substantial to bring the perpetrators to justice, although the officers admitted that four persons were arrested as "people of interest" but were later released.

The probe further revealed that "the riot police could not contain the situation as they were overwhelmed by the surging crowd, so in the process, the officers used the service arms and began shooting in the air using live bullets in an attempt to disperse the crowd. In the stampede that followed two persons, Saah Saah and Dave Mombo were reportedly shot in the legs, and one in the head eventually resulting to the death of Abraham Tumay."

Armed police on the scene in Kingsville Number 7 Community and fired several rounds of ammunition to disperse the demonstrators, who retaliated by throwing stones at the police. (Photo: Joaquin M. Sendolo)

At Monday's hearing, the accused officers were remanded at the Monrovia Central Prison on grounds that they could not secure bonds, because the crime of which they were charged qualify an individual (accused) for bail.

The investigative report also defended the police officers' action that due to the escalation of the rioters' violence, the Careysburg Police, situated in the Kingsville Township, were unable to contain the situation, thereby causing Commander Philip O. Johnson to report the incident to his superiors through the appropriate chain of command. The document did not further explain the chain of command, but said that, in response to Commander Johnson's call, the PSU officers took charge of the incident.

Besides, the document said that there was negotiation between the officers and some of the aggrieved residents, which, according to the report, failed find and remedy to the situation, which became volatile.

"The PSU officers attempted to remove the road blocks through riot control tactics, but the rioters started throwing stones and other harmful objects at the police. Therefore, they (police) began to use the service arms by shooting in the air with "live bullets" in an attempt to disperse the crowd, a situation that led to the death one person, and subsequently injuring some of the protesters," the document said.

The document also claimed that before the incident, Walter B. Wary, a police commissioner, received call from two unknown callers informing him that there was a road block reportedly set up by some of the aggrieved residents.

It was officer Wary who later informed Marvin M. Sackor, Police Deputy Inspector General for Operations, who subsequently instructed Wary to move the PSU to the scene so as to remove the road block and create free passage for other road users.

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