Liberia: LNP Charges Two Officers for Driver's Death

The Liberia National Police has charged two of its officers with negligent homicide and criminal facilitation in connection to the death of truck driver Alieu Sheriff who died as a result of alleged manhandling.

The LNP indictment comes after the Ministry of Justice had earlier ordered the rearrest of three officers accused of Sheriff's death on July 29 near the National Transit Authority (NTA) along the Japan Freeway. The ministry then accused the three officers of not having any respect for human rights protocols and other legal instruments that encompass the rights of everybody.

But the LNP, at the end of its investigation, charged two of the three officers, Samuel N. Borbor, 41, and Alexander T. Seakor, 56 for Sheriff's demise and acquitted Chief Inspector of Police, Thomas B. Sackor of any role leading to the death of the truck driver.

According to police, Chief Inspector Sackor could not be held liable due to his non-interaction with the deceased prior to his death, but not the two officers charged.

In a statement, police alleged that upon impounding the deceased's vehicle at the NTA compound, he became angry after Chief Inspector Sackor had refused to speak with someone he had on the phone. The vehicle of the deceased was impounded for being road unworthy. It was at this point that Sheriff, according to the police, began disturbing that no other vehicle left the fence until his vehicle was also released; thus prompting his removal from the fence.

The LNP statement which was signed by its spokesman Moses Carter noted that "Due to disturbances by the driver, suspect Seakor held the victim by his trousers taking him to the gate where suspect Borbor held on him and forcibly put him out of the NTA fence and locked the gate."

However, contrary to eyewitnesses' accounts, the police statement did not attribute Sheriff's death to any tussle between the deceased and the officers. Rather, the statement attributed it to falling at the NTA gate from outside--a statement that contravenes the Ministries of Justice and Internal Affairs autopsy report that Sheriff died unnaturally due to "blunt force injury" to the back of the head.

"The deceased began banging the gate but fell to the ground and subsequently went unconscious. He was rushed to the JFK Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival by doctors on call," the police said. But eyewitnesses who spoke to Daily Observer after Sheriff's death confirmed the issue of a tussle between the deceased and the officers. However, none could confirm if he was violent in the process or not.

Carter added that the police presence on the Japanese Freeway on July 29, 2021, was to execute a Ministry of Transport and Liberia National Police joint inspection of non-road worthy vehicles.

"During the inspection process, several defective vehicles including the deceased's vehicle were impounded on the NTA compound. Police investigation again uncovered that Chief Inspector of Police, Sackor, was on an official assignment. Inspector Seakor was not officially there, but he later joined his colleagues to impound defective vehicles, while Patrolman Samuel Borbor was sent by one of his senior officers with a driver yet to be identified to make an intervention into the release of said driver's vehicle," Carter added in the statement.

Meanwhile, the police in its statement said based upon facts, witnesses accounts, Professional Standards Division investigative report, suspects' statements, an autopsy report conducted on August 7, 2021, "The suspects have been forwarded to court for the crimes of Negligent Homicide and Criminal Facilitation in violation of chapter 14.3 and 10.2 of the revised penal law of the Republic of Liberia."

Sheriff death led to one of the biggest protest against police brutality in recent years, and at the protest, which took place on August 5, the LNP went on the offensive to disperse the crowd which was protesting against police brutality, and lawless behaviour.

Decrying the injustice, the driver's family mobilized hundreds of people from diverse backgrounds to converge at the headquarters of the LNP, demanding an impartial investigation of the death of the driver and for the police leadership to do more to combat police brutality. The victims' family was joined by many others who claimed to have been victims of police brutality and railed against what they said are limited investigations, not only in Sherif's death but other cases of police brutality.

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