On the re-opening of SLPP Office … “We would never encourage violence” John Benjamin...

First on the Scene: unidentified police officer shoots four civilians in central Freetown Gun fire, Screams and Blood…

I was the first reporter on the scene yesterday after an unidentified OSD officer open-fired into a crowd of people on Earl Street, leaving four unarmed youths seriously wounded.
At about 2:30 in the afternoon, I heard gunfire coming from outside my office on Circular Road. I counted one, two, three and four shots. When the second round of firing came, I leapt to the window to see what was going on.
I was shocked. People were shouting and running from the direction of the gunfire. A man whose t-shirt was covered in blood ducked out of my sight and was not seen again. Bullet holes and blood marked the street where the victims were shot. There were no journalists, no officers and no medical staff.
I rushed out with my notebook and camera to get the story. Through the chaos of the crowd, I asked if anyone had seen what happened.
According to an anonymous eyewitness, the unidentified police officer drew his weapon and fired on three youths he was trying to arrest on the belief they had been smoking marijuana. Another three officers appeared and saw him shoot the victims, all of whom were unarmed.
20-year-old Bailoh Johnson was not involved in the altercation, but was hit in the arm by a stray bullet fragment.
“My right hand is heavy, and I am in a lot of pain,” he said, clutching his injury. “I was scared to death. The police officers are crazy.”
Though Johnson was not seriously wounded, he said he is worried about the victims, at least one of whom is in critical condition.
“I want him to lose his job and go to jail,” he said of the offending officer.
During the live fire, one of the officer’s bullets went right through a wall of Alakin General Services on Circular Road. With the November General Elections approaching, the call to end such violence and police irresponsibility is stronger now than ever.
“The government needs to stop the use of rapid firearms,” said 22-year-old Bakarr Bangura, who arrived on the scene shortly after the incident. Standing near a pool of blood from one of the victims, he said it feels as though somebody new is shot by an officer every week.
“It is their usual habit,” he said. “They started this.” In the mean time, police investigations of the incident are ongoing.
By Elizabeth McSheffrey

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