Residents of Atimatim, in the Kwabre West District of the Ashanti Region, say they are yet to come to terms with the shooting to death of a 27 year old youth said to be a member of a Neighborhood Watch Committee by the police. The incident occurred Wednesday night after police on night patrol duty opened fire on Alfred Mensah Abeiku, and two others said to be members of the Committee on duty.
According to the police, Alfred Mensah Abeiku was shot because he was suspected to be an armed robber who was escaping from the police. Two other persons, who are also believed to be members of the Watch Committee, were arrested.
But the family and the entire community have accused the police of cooking up the robbery story to conceal a reckless shooting. A woman, who claims to have witnessed the shooting, told Ultimate Radio’s Joseph Oppong Brenya that the deceased was unarmed and was even lying on a bench at the time when the police begun the shoot out.
“At about 12:30am, I heard three gun shots so I peeped through my window and saw the gentleman lying in a pool of blood. The bullets even penetrated my main gate. So later I heard the police arguing that he is a member of the neighborhood watch committee but some of them said otherwise. Later the police officers made a call and they picked the body away into a pickup”.
The mother of the deceased, Mary Fletcher, told Ultimate Radio his son was never a robber. According to her, the son works in a Tigo customer service outlet in the town and only volunteered to offer his services to protect the community and that she is seeking justice for his son.
Speaking to Ultimate Radio’s Joseph Oppong Brenya, she expressed disappointment at the way the police had tossed her about refusing to show her the whereabouts of her son.
“I was asleep when a colleague to the deceased came knocking and shouting that my son has been shot dead. Even though it was late, I hurried to the Mamponteng police station but the police did not tell us anything. I later went to Mole market police station and also to the central police station where I demanded to see my son. The police have framed up the story that my son is an armed robber including the two they arrested” she narrated with fury.
In a follow up to ascertain whether there was a recognized neighborhood Watch Committee in the Atimatim community, the Assembly member for Atimatim West, Akwesi Yeboah, told Ultimate Radio, he was surprised at the turn of events, because the District Chief Executive and the police were aware of the existence of the Neighborhood Watch Committee.
“We formed the neighborhood watch committee because of rampant harassment of residents by criminals. We informed the DCE and the Mamponteng police and they duly registered them with their identity and finger prints for them to start operating here. It was formed just last week Wednesday” he established.
He recounted that what he heard was that “a taxi driver who saw them with torchlight thought they were armed robbers and reported it to the police so the police came in and arrested the two and shot the deceased affectionately called Abey. We have been to the police commander and he told us that he will investigate it. The police have not given us the chance to even speak to the two that have been arrested.”
Meanwhile, the Ashanti Regional Police Command has denied any reckless shooting of an innocent person. PRO of the Command, ASP Mohammed Tanko, told Ultimate Radio police went to the area because they had been informed of a robbery gang operating in that part of the community.
He indicated that upon reaching the area, they saw the young men masked and wielding weapons. This he said informed their conviction that the men were the ones who were reported to have been attacking commuters on the road that night.
Defending the actions of his men, ASP Tanko quoted parts of the criminal procedure act which he interpreted as allowing the police to “resort to the use of fire arms when pursuing a dangerous criminal or someone who is suspected to have committed a serious crime, and trying to escape with no practical way of arresting the culprit”.
“At the time these men were being chased the police were convinced that they were pursuing people who have committed a serious crime” he stated.
He denied knowledge of any Neighborhood Watch Committee which had been inaugurated in the area saying “wherever the police go to work and are informed of any group of a sort, the police are directed to work in collaboration with them”.
He also denied claims that his men were high handed in their approach and asked that any eyewitness who claimed to have been there at the 11:55pm when the incident happened to give an account to the police to aid investigations. Meanwhile the police on Thursday charged the two others, Gyenegyene Alhasan 30 years, and Efo Atubia 57, for attempted robbery. They have been remanded by the Kumasi High Court Three to reappear on March14 2014.