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Senior officer to be charged over shooting in slum

A senior police officer in Nairobi is set to be charged on Tuesday in connection with the fatal shooting of a woman, the first case to be prosecuted following investigations by the civilian police oversight body.

The Independent Policing Oversight Authority conducted an inquiry into the death of Ms Peris Waithera Mwangi, a young mother who was killed while breastfeeding her six-month-old baby in the city’s Mathare slum on July 15 last year.

Policemen had raided an area called Nigeria Village that is notorious for drug trafficking to flush out and arrest suspected dealers.

Ms Waithera was inside her house when police fired live bullets to scare away rowdy youths who were pelting them with stones. One of the bullets tore through the iron sheet walls of her house, killing her instantly.

After the investigation, Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko has given IPOA the green light to charge a chief inspector in the landmark case.

IPOA believes that, first, the killer bullet was fired from a police firearm and secondly, that the chief inspector shielded a junior officer responsible for the shooting from investigation. 

Mr Tobiko says that the police boss should face three charges: disobeying IPOA summons, failing to produce an exhibit on orders of IPOA and failure to comply with lawful directions issued by the authority.

For each charge, the law says that an officer may be fined up to Sh500,000, or jailed for three years. The court has discretion to impose both penalties.

Initially, IPOA had not targeted the chief inspector for investigation but was interested in one of the four junior officers. 

It has also been established that a bullet retrieved from Ms Waithera’s body after the postmortem examination was substituted by another.

Ironically, IPOA detectives were at City Mortuary when the autopsy was conducted on July 19 and hoped to take away the bullet as evidence.

But Government Pathologist Johansen Oduor gave it to a constable, who had a similar brief.

Dr Oduor would later explain that such exhibits are traditionally surrendered to police.

IPOA then started a formal process to get the crucial exhibit from the police.

The authority wrote to then Officer Commanding Starehe Police Division Senior Superintendent Samuel Anampiu asking for the inquest file into the woman’s death and a list of officers who took part in the operation.

A month later

During a visit to the police division headquarters a month later, IPOA detectives obtained a firearms movement register, duty rosters, an exhibit memo and entries from the Occurrence Book (OB).

In September, IPOA again wrote to Mr Anampiu asking for copies of ballistic reports for four Ceska pistols used in the operation.

The report was only provided after the intervention of the Director of Criminal Investigations Ndegwa Muhoro.

The quest to get the killer bullet would drag on for another three months before it was dropped.

The authority issued official summons to the chief inspector to appear before it, but the request was never honoured.

IPOA wrote to Kenya Police boss Grace Kaindi and Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo to protest the police boss’s failure to co-operate.

It was on this basis that IPOA convinced Mr Tobiko that the station commander should be charged with disobeying lawful summons.

The IPOA investigation further revealed how police compromise death inquiries of citizens caught up in police shootings.

“The Authority has strong reasons to believe the bullet submitted for ballistic examination was not the same bullet removed from the body during postmortem, or if it was, it had been tampered with,” reads the report.

The Authority was further dismayed because the four pistols “were never marked as exhibits and were issued (to other officers) days after the incident. The bullet was taken to the armoury and not recorded in the exhibits’ register.”