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Video Shows Police Officer In Kenya Shooting Gang Member Repeatedly

May 2, 2017
Originally published on May 2, 2017 8:19 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A police shooting caught on video and played hundreds of thousands of times on social media has sparked a familiar debate. Some people are praising the police. Others say the police should stop killing young men in a poor neighborhood.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This debate is not happening in an American city. It's in Kenya. And we should warn you that there are sounds in this story that could be disturbing for some listeners. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports from Nairobi.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: When the video starts rolling, there is already one young man strewn on the sidewalk. He's bleeding as an undercover police officer argues with a 17-year-old. The suspected gang member puts his hands up in a sign of surrender. And then, it's unclear why, the police officer unloads his weapon.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUN SHOTS)

PERALTA: This is happening in the middle of the busiest street in the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi. There are literally dozens of people watching as the teen falls to the ground and the officer takes a second weapon from his partner.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUN SHOTS)

PERALTA: He unloads again, and you can see the boy writhing on the ground while the officer calmly, methodically reloads his weapon and walks around him to deliver one final bullet to the back of his head.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUN SHOT)

PERALTA: A few days after the shooting, I head out to Eastleigh. It's home to Nairobi's Somali community and one of the most important business hubs, so it's bustling. Omar Yussuf Abdi is a business leader with political ambitions. Like many others, he saw the video and didn't feel a thing for the young men being shot.

OMAR YUSSUF ABDI: You know, when there is no peace, war is necessary.

PERALTA: He says that before this particular policeman arrived, Eastleigh was a lawless place. You couldn't walk to the mosque for evening prayers without being mugged.

ABDI: To see what they have done to the people, I'm not feeling mercy for them. What about what they have done? What about the people they've injured? What about the people they stop every day?

PERALTA: Eastleigh has a historically tense relationship with police. The mostly Somali population has lived under suspicion of terrorist ties, so the community has often been the target of indiscriminate persecution. In a lot of ways, it's a recipe for mass protests against police brutality. But Mohammed Ismail, who runs a textile business and is a youth advocate, is one of the few people I find who says it pained him to watch that video, to watch...

MOHAMMED ISMAIL: Somebody who has just surrendered to you, pleading with you that don't kill me - and yet, you are just shooting, killing him in front of the community without any fear and you feel proud. It was very barbaric.

PERALTA: He says the video proves that despite what police say, in this neighborhood, they do shoot to kill. It goes against the constitution, he says, and it doesn't make sense in a country that hasn't legally executed anyone in decades. I ask Ismail why, then, is no one protesting?

ISMAIL: There is silence because of fear. There's that fear factor.

PERALTA: Indeed as we walk up the main thoroughfare, we find people who saw the shooting but won't talk. They fear that same cop could still be walking the streets. Osman, a young Somali, says he'll talk if we only use his first name.

OSMAN: (Foreign language spoken).

PERALTA: He says police in this neighborhood will stop young refugees like him for no reason. They'll search pockets, detain them and then ask for a bribe.

OSMAN: (Foreign language spoken).

PERALTA: What the video shows, he says, is that someone like him could easily end up like that 17-year-old boy. Almost a week after the shooting, the bodies of the two young men killed are finally released to family members. They gather at a Muslim cemetery not far from Eastleigh. The men stand behind a box truck waiting for the bodies.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).

PERALTA: And as they emerge, the bodies appear to float above their heads, moving hand to hand, man to man.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).

PERALTA: The prayers morphing from chorus to cacophony as the bodies reach the mosque. Kenyan police have announced they will investigate the shooting. But Roble Kheri, the father of the 17-year-old, doesn't have much hope for justice.

ROBLE KHERI: (Foreign language spoken).

PERALTA: He says he knows his son made mistakes but not severe enough to merit death. As we speak, the auntie and the friend of the other young man who was killed cut in.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: And he surrendered. And he kneeled down.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: There's this thing called humanity. You just can't shoot someone like that. That's not humanity. That's insane, I'm telling you.

PERALTA: What they need, they say, is justice. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.