KENYA, NAIROBI – On 20 November 2018, a police officer shot and killed an innocent man named Cornelius inside an apartment.
To justify his actions, the officer informed neighbours who rushed to the scene after hearing gunshots that Cornelius was a notorious robber.
Instead of allowing investigations and proper documentation of the scene, the officer devised a plan to cover up the murder. He told the neighbours that Cornelius, then 26, had charged at him with a knife, a hammer and a pistol. He also told them that Cornelius refused to surrender when asked.
The claims, however, did not add up. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) began investigating the case and identified glaring gaps in the initial police report.
A couple of days before the shooting, Cornelius’ family had moved houses. On the night of the shooting, Cornelius had gone to a friend’s birthday celebration.
He left the party, drunk, at 3am.
Perhaps due to his level of intoxication, he entered his former home through the kitchen window. The home’s new owners then called the police to say a robber had broken in.
Three officers, one of whom was the perpetrator, arrived quickly and later shot Cornelius.
In April 2021, IPOA referred the case to IJM. Our team of lawyers immediately began working with the prosecution to uncover the truth whilst a team of counsellors began to offer psychosocial support to the family to help them process the incident and prepare to testify.
On 26 July 2022, nearly four years after the incident, the court ruled that the officer was liable. They said
“In the result, there is sufficient evidence pointing to the culpability of the officer. He was deployed to save a situation, but intervened with a military response”
The officer was later charged for murder.
During the hearings, it became apparent that the police had interfered with the evidence. The officers, not only submitted a gun belonging to another case, but also hurriedly wrote a letter to the Chief Magistrate recommending for an inquest only hours after the shooting.
By that time, a ballistic report was not yet out. Similarly, the bullet that killed Cornelius mysteriously disappeared, pointing to the cover-up.
In the ruling, the magistrate questioned why the police recommended that the case be decided by way of an inquest just hours after the shooting and before a post-mortem was done. The magistrate said
“It is questionable what the rush was all about.”
She added that there was no doubt the officer shot Cornelius, who could not put up a fight due to his level of intoxication.
What the Law Says
An officer must always make the effort to use nonviolent means. Force may be used only when nonviolent means fail, and any force used shall always be necessary and appropriate to the threat and the legitimate objective to be achieved.
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