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Regional News of Wednesday, 9 July 2003

Source: Akwasi Sarpong and Bennet Frempong

Alleged Police Brutality, One Man Dead

The people of Apegusu, a town in the Eastern Region are demanding an investigation into the killing of a 42 year-old teacher by a police officer last month. The villagers say the man, Kofi Boafo, popularly known as Teacher Koo, was killed when he tried to persuade a team of police personnel from removing speed ramps built on a major road by the townspeople.

They are also demanding compensation from the government for alleged police brutality, which led to the shooting and wounding of at least three people.

A spokesman of the chief of Apegusu, Nana Mintah Danquah, is demanding compensation from government for the deceased’s family and care for his six children.

According to the spokesman, Teacher Koo, who was also the town secretary, was on his way to perform his customary duties at a funeral when he saw the team of police recruits and their commanders removing the speed ramps made from sand-filled fertilizer sacks.

The spokesman alleged that Teacher Koo went up to the police team and tried to persuade them from removing the speed ramps, which the inhabitants themselves had built following a series of motor accidents involving pedestrians. He reportedly told the police personnel that officials of the Highways Authority were expected later in the day to replace the ramps and so there was no need to carry on with the exercise.

However, according to Nana Mintah Danquah, a policeman pointed his rifle on Teacher Koo and shot him in the throat at close range without any provocation.

Nana Danquah said the police men prevented bystanders from attending to Teacher Koo as he lay on the ground bleeding from his wounds and instead continued with their work of removing the ramps.

They later sent for reinforcements and allegedly terrorized the towns folk firing warning shots and brutalizing people who crossed their path. They arrested six people including a sister of the deceased, who was allegedly assaulted and stripped naked.

The six people were taken away in a police van to Ho, the Volta Regional capital and kept in custody. Efforts by the Chief Executive of the Asuogyaman district to bail the six were rebuffed. They stayed in police custody for three days.

Two men sustained gun shot wounds in their legs, the others are nursing bruises and body pains after being discharged from the VRA hospital. Their medical bills were borne by the townspeople.

When JOY FM contacted the Volta Regional Police Commander, he blamed the inhabitants of the town for the death of Teacher Koo. DSP Kofi Duku Arthur explained that the police team was provoked by the people, resulting in the firing of guns to avert an attack.

He said the decision to remove the ramps was agreed by the Volta Regional Security Council after several appeals to the Highway authorities and the townsfolk to remove the ramps on the road, which is frequently used by people in the Volta Region yielded no results.

Therefore, the Security Council approved the deployment of 70 police officers, 50 of them equipped with hoes, pick axes and wheelbarrows to remove the ramps and 20 other armed officers to protect their colleagues from any possible attacks. However the townsfolk attacked the police officers resulting in the firing of shots by the police officers.

Mr Arthur however could not tell whose gun killed the teacher. He also confirmed the arrest of six people who were allegedly brutalized on their way to the Ho cells. But he denied that a female captive was stripped almost naked.

The Regional Police Commander conceded that the removal of the speed ramps is not the duty of the police, especially in an area not under their jurisdiction, but explained that enough notices had been sent to the Eastern Regional Security Council but nothing had been done about the situation.

The Inspector General of Police, Nana Owusu Nsiah has instituted investigations into the incident.

Meanwhile, the Member of Parliament for Asuogyaman, Dwamena Bekoe has condemned the excessive force used by the police that led to the death of Teacher Koo. According to him, the police do not have any excuse for using excessive force against unarmed civilians.

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