Uganda: How police officer cut short the life of a suspect in police custody

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Residents gathered in Ikarabirenge village, Kikwaya sub county, Kakumiro district on Tuesday for burial proceedings of Mr John Barugahare (inset) who was reportedly shot dead by a police officer while in police cells at the weekend. PHOTO/ALEX TUMUHIMBISE.

By Alex Tumuhimbise

Suspects at Kikwaya police post in Kakumiro district have given an eye witness account on how a trigger happy police constable allegedly killed a suspect in police cells.

Mr John Barugahare, a resident of Ikarabirenge village, Kyakajumbi parish, Kikwaya Sub County in Kakumiro district had his life cut short when a police officer, Mr Julius Alaku allegedly shot him while in a police cell at Kikwaya police post on March 14 at around 9pm.

The deceased, together with five of his friends, had been arrested on Saturday on allegations of election violence ahead of the January 14 polls.

-Witnesses account-

Mr Robert Tumusiime, an eye wittiness who had been arrested and detained with the deceased from the same area narrated to Daily Monitor that the police officer shot Barugahare (deceased) after putting him on gunpoint.

‘‘At around 9pm they brought in another suspect who was extremely drunk. The deceased begged for a torch from the drunken suspect who provided it peacefully. The deceased also asked whether the new suspect had come with something to drink. At this point, the new suspect became violent and slapped Barugahare in the face. Barugahare also retaliated by slapping him too. The new suspect started shouting and banging the cell door,’’ Tumusiime said.

He added: ‘‘Police officers came at the door to know what was happening. However, one of them- who was armed opened the door and asked the new suspect who had beaten him. The suspect pointed at Barugahare (deceased). The armed police officer without asking just placed a gun in his chest and fired a bullet as he was sleeping on the floor.’’

Mr Niwagaba Tugume, another eye wittiness incarcerated in the same police cell at the time narrated: ‘‘The killer officer opened the cell door and torched towards us. He pointed a gun at him and shot him. Before dying, the deceased told us that he felt death around. Upon the shooting, he was picked from the cells and taken outside. We could hear him groaning in deep pain. After some few minutes, he went silent. At around 10 pm, panicky officers came and drove us to Kakumiro police station.”

The deceased was buried at his parents’ home in Ikarabirenge village on March 16.

Mr. Stephen Muzaana, the deceased’s father who is also disabled and ill with terminal Asthma said that his son was the only provider and caretaker. He is now demanding compensation and justice for the lost life.

‘‘My son was arrested on Saturday at night. I just heard people telling me to go and pick my son’s body. I don’t know why he was killed in this manner. I don’t have any source of income. He was helping me with getting treatment because I have Asthma,’’ Muzaana said.

Ms Olivia Kyomugisha, the deceased’s mother said that she was organizing to take food to his incarcerated son only to hear that he had been shot dead in the cells.

‘‘I don’t know why he was arrested and when we had the news of his arrest, we started preparing to visit him and give him food. We however heard that he had been killed,’’ Kyomugisha said.

The district councillor for Kikwaya sub-county, Mr Smart Mugongo wondered how a trained police officer can enter into cells and shoot a suspect.

‘‘It is very absurd for a trained officer to enter into cells and kill a suspect in this manner’’ Mugongo said.

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This handout photo shows deceased Mr John Barugahare who was recklessly shot dead by a Police office.

-Police say-

Albertine regional police spokesperson, Mr Julius Hakiiza in a telephone interview with Daily Monitor on Monday said that the deceased with other suspects started fighting in the cells.

‘‘It is true there was a scuffle in police cells. The suspects were fighting in the police cells. The police officer who was guarding wanted to know what was exactly happening. In due course, he opened the cell’s door and the suspects wanted to run away. One of the suspects (deceased) wanted to take off and when the police officer opened fire, unfortunately, he ended up shooting him. He died as he was being rushed to hospital,’’ Mr Hakiiza said.

He added that the police officer was arrested and whisked to Kakumiro police station where he is being detained.

‘‘The officer did not sustain any form of injury and he managed to put one of them out of action. We have him in our custody to help with investigations. We condemn the acts of suspects attempting to escape’’ Hakiiza said.

It is not clear why Barugahare (deceased) was arrested almost 2 months after elections on claims of election violence before January 14.

Source Daily Monitor.

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