, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 20 – Three police officers who were captured on camera executing suspects in cold blood on Nairobi\’s Lang\’ata Road have been interdicted with immediate effect.
Internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti announced that the three officers would face charges in court once investigations are complete.
"I have directed the Commissioner of Police to interdict with immediate effect the officers in order to pave way for thorough investigations," he told a media conference at his office but withheld the identities of those dismissed.
"Once investigations are completed, disciplinary action will be taken including prosecuting the officers in a court of law," he added. "I want to assure the public that stern action will be taken against such errant officers."
An official at the Internal Security Ministry told Capital News those interdicted include one who was recently promoted to the rank of a sergeant and two corporals all based at the Special Crime Prevention Unit (SCPU).
Five other police officers – two from the SCPU and three from the Flying Squad unit were spared because they did not fire a single shot at the scene.
Two of those spared were drivers who are said to have remained in their vehicles as the gangsters were subdued and eventually fatally shot during the Wednesday incident that occurred on Lang\’ata Road, causing a major traffic snarl up.
On Thursday, the Minister did not state the charges the officers interdicted are likely to face but an official at Police Headquarters told Capital News they could face manslaughter charges.
A motorist who captured the killings on camera took the photos to a newspaper which prominently published them, sparking public outcry and condemnation from members of the public.
"I want to commend the person who when he saw what the police officers were doing, decided to capture it on camera. And I would like to encourage more of them to do that. It is the best example of sharing the information with the police," Prof Saitoti said.
Capital News reliably learnt that the three officers who participated in the shooting of the suspected gangsters were disarmed on Thursday morning and ordered to write statements giving circumstances that led to the killings.
By Thursday afternoon, all the guns allocated to the seven police officers who were pursuing the gangsters on Lang\’ata Road had been taken to the CID headquarters for ballistic tests.
All the officers had also been asked to record statements and indicate how many guns they handled, bullets they used and any other role they played at the scene of the shooting before and after the suspects were killed.
The decision to interdict the three officers was reached after evidence revealed that only three officers fired bullets at the thugs and into the air to disperse crowds at the scene.
The Minister said the officers\’ actions were against the spirit of the police reforms which demand that police officers act within the laws and stipulated Force Standing Orders.
"It is with great disbelief and dismay to note that the three suspects may have met their death at the hands of police officers yesterday (Wednesday)," Prof Saitoti said.
"Such acts are totally unacceptable more so coming at a time when the government is implementing a new Constitution that highly upholds the fundamental rights of all citizens."
A senior police officer in charge of Lang\’ata Police division in whose jurisdiction the shootings occurred had told journalists soon after the killing that the slain men were "suspected criminals who were gunned down after a shoot out with police officers."
He also told journalists that a pistol was recovered from one of the slain men.
But this was discounted by Prof Saitoti who – upon examining the published photographs – agreed that the suspects had been executed.
He told journalists that although the three slain men were wanted criminals who were being trailed by the police, actions of the police which led to their death could not be justified.
"There is sufficient evidence… the photographs are there where you see the police officer pointing a gun at a suspect who is lying face down and the next photo shows him lying dead. This is very clear and it needs no further explanation," the Minister said when he addressed a press conference in the company of his Assistant Minister Orwa Ojode, Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia and Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere.
Mr Iteere who pensively sat next to the Minister did not utter a word but a source later told Capital News he spent the better part of the morning in a crisis meeting with his top commanders where a decision to interdict the officers was reached.
"It was agreed that five officers who trailed the officers be interdicted, but there was a general feeling that it would be unfair to interdict all of them because only three used their firearms," the source who cannot be named because he is not authorised to give official statements said.
"The officers only resolved to interdict the three and spare five others including a driver who remained in the car during the shooting," he added.
During his press briefing Thursday, Professor Saitoti said more officers would be interdicted if found to have played any role in the killings.
Follow the author at https://twitter.com/momanyibernard