Live Bullets Fired in Kinjor -IG Coleman Says Officers’ ‘Lives Were Threatened’

MONROVIA: The young administration of President Joseph Nyuma Boakai has bumped into its first national security test last week when throngs citizens of Kinjor in Grand Cape Mount County staged a protest against a foreign concessionaire, BEA Mountain Mining Corporation, over long-lingering social agreement issues which they believe have not been going down well with them. The protest reportedly turned violent, leading to deaths and destruction of property. Public discourse over this serious event has been charged, with some blaming the government for ordering disproportionate force, something they say is untypical of the immediate past administration of George Manneh Weah which feted protesters with food and water. But, as The Analyst reports, the current Inspector General of the Liberia National Force, Gregory Coleman, defended the action, stating that the protest was not peaceful as law enforcements came under vicious volleys of attacks.

What was initially interpreted as a peaceful protest undertaken by community residents, including those of the main community of Kinjor, in the concession area of the Turkish company BEA Mountain Mining Company, turned violent that saw the protesters and officers of the Liberia National Police clashing.

At least three persons are said to have died as a result of the clashes, several persons including police officers badly injured.

The incident has sparked outrage amongst human rights advocates and citizens, mainly politicians, who said the administration of President Joseph Boakai has wasted the blood and lives of Liberians too soon, something they said could have been avoided if prudence and reason had prevailed.

Amid the debate generated from the uproar that greeted the Kinjor melee, the Inspector General of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Gregory Coleman, has admitted to the excessive use of force and the discharge of live bullet by officers of the LNP in the Kinjor incident.

“As it relates to the firing of live rounds, yes, the Liberia National Police did discharge live rounds on the scene of the incident. Live rounds were discharged,” he told journalists during a huge press conference.

Speaking at the news conference on Saturday, March 2, 2024 in Monrovia, the LNP Inspector General Coleman said the Police exercised maximum restraint and did not reach to a point of using live rounds until there were immediate danger feared by the officers.

He said as the melee was going on, LNP officers caught in the midst of the melee were on telephone lines crying and wailing and “I was on the line with the Senator of the County pleading with him to please call his people” to stop what they were doing.

“If you watch the video [captured from the violence scene], you will see the officers not engaging, but retreating,” he said further. “they went back in the barrack. They barricaded themselves and the protesters broke the barracks, burning the police station, and even as that the police officers continued to pull back.”

IG Coleman asserted that, it was at the point where their lives of the law enforcers were threatened, that they used whatever they had.

He noted that the video showed two of the protesters armed with single barrel; one person trying to reload and the other person with the single barrel raffle in his hand, and that is a clear indication that there were weapons in the crowd from the video footages and from the consistency of the wound of the police officers.

The Police boss noted that the issue of fire alarms at the protest is evident that their wound were consistent with artisanal weapons.

“Our shooting team has been set up to launch an investigation,” he said.

He said the LNP asked the Association of Liberia Law Enforcement Professionals in the United States to also take a second review of the use of force in these incidents by officers of the LNP.

It can be recalled that some time ago, the workers and residents met with the management of Bea Mountain and handed over a 31-point request which expired on February 12, 2024, and as a consequence of the failure, the aggrieved parties being the workers and residents decided to react to the refusal of Bea Mountain to address their grievances.

The Police IG closed that the LNP have arrested 23 persons, 3 females 20 males and they are undergoing Police investigation.

“I want to assure the general public that all of these issues will be properly investigated and there will be absolutely no cover up,” he averred. “As part of the efforts being made order has being restored.”

IG Coleman also reported that based on the series of calls being received from families of love ones who have passed on mysteriously over the years, the LNP has set up an old case file and opened all of the investigations that are still pending to be able to give some closure to the family and to give them justice as the case may require.

“In the same vein, we are asking you, all those who may have information on cases that are pending, cases that people believe were not properly investigated and adjudicated, to come forward with information to help us in these investigations,” he said.

There Will Be No Cover Up

 Further on the Kinjor incident, which has caused the death of 3 persons and injuring a number of others, including civilians and 9 police officers, Inspector General Gregory Coleman has vowed that there will be a speedy and transparent probe that lead to getting the facts and circumstances that led to the incident.

He also made commitment that there will be no sacred cow and cover up in the process.

He used the Saturday, March 2, 2024 press conference to express his empathy over the incident, especially for those who lost their lives in the process.

He stressed that such unfortunate situation was regrettable as pains of deaths remain with families for a long time just as he mentioned that he has been feeling similar pains since the death of his mother two years ago.

“I felt similar pains two years ago when my mother died,” he reflected. “So, I can only empathize them for what they are going through.

“I want to assure the general public, the entire nation, that this issue and other issues will be properly investigated and there will be absolutely no cover up.”

He said while the situation is still fresh and may take time for things to come to normality, the police is “working with multi-stakeholders, using the platform as a means of fostering peace and reconciliation in the community”.

“As of now, we have 23 persons arrested, 3 females, 20 males in police custody undergoing investigation. The officers are being treated, some have been released from the hospital, only two of them are still in hospital,” he said further.

Further Defending Shooting

Responding to a question on the insinuation that a lawmaker was involved in inciting the protesters, the LNP boss said that he has to be careful on what to say before people misconstrue him.

“But there are videos circulating on the social media where the people were incited by a lawmaker; but that the protest was led by the lawmaker, I don’t know anything of such,” he clarified.

He said the blame game was wrong on the police as the source of the attacks while evidence available showed that the police went extremely extra mile to avoid the incident that occurred.

“From the videos, you can see that the officers did not start using live rounds until they came under severe attack, and you could see they were pleading even with a senator to allow their people not to fire,” he said.

IG Coleman said: “You could see that the police were retreating to their base. You could see the protesters marching towards the police; you could see them breaking the barriers, even at that it came to a point where the lives of the police were threatened. So, they were forced to use what they had at that prevailing time.”

IG Coleman, who is returning to the position under a different dispensation having served as IG under former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, defended his statement that the protesters were armed and used their arms to open fire on the police which resulted in the injuries inflicted on police officers for which they are being treated at the hospital.

He added: “From the videos circulating, you can see two persons who were trying to upload a single barrel raffle. I can ask for permission that some of you, journalists, could go to the hospital to see the wounded officers and see that some of the officers carry bullet wounds all over their bodies.”

He asserted that no one needs to tell a trained officer when to use live bullets or how to defend himself when under severe attack as was in the case at Kinjor where the officers “had to use their discretion to respond the way they did as part of their training”.

The Police Chief further noted: “I am deeply concerned and I am going to ensure that the matter is properly handled and the recommendations will be made to the government. Going forward, we will be proactive so that issues like this will not reoccur. The UNDP spent a lot of money on finding various channels to deal with this, maybe we have to go back and activate some of them so that our people will know how to channel their grievances next time.”

When asked who takes responsibility for the incident in Kinjor, Coleman said it is early to apportion blame but that the investigation commissioned hopes to establish who are responsible in which case they will face the law.

He however reiterated his statement that the police in Kinjor came under attack by the protesters and acted in self-defense.

IG on LEC-Caldwell Fatality

The IG also used Saturday press conference to also address himself to the incident in Caldwell where some police officers in the Power Theft of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) were involved in the death of a Liberian, Josephus Tukpeh.

He said he had visited the bereaved family and expressed his condolences while promising that justice will be done to ensure that the perpetrators are brought forth to face the law.

He also said that all officers on the Power Theft team have all been arrested and placed behind bars while investigation is ongoing.

“I was able to get in physical contact with the wife and other bereaved family and expressed condolences,” he said. “I also assured the general public through this medium that the investigation will be voided of any interferences, nothing absolutely will hide.

“It will be transparent as possible, 100% and releasing these information based on investigation in real time.”

Challenges in 2nd Term

When asked whether the challenges being faced right on taking office could be seen as litmus test, Coleman said he was aware of keeping the people as the President has absolute confidence in him.

He urged Liberians to exhibit smart measure, strengthen communication with the community to build public confidence to ensure that every citizen lives in harmony with their neighbors.

He said the police, under his leadership, is up to the task and all that is needed is for everyone to be on the same page for peace so that “we will not have these kinds of occurrences in our society knowing very well that we are the same people.”

Looking Back at “Stalled Cases”

Meanwhile, IG Coleman has said that the LNP has established what it called the “Old Case File Unit” to investigate all cases that were unresolved in the past, including all mysterious deaths that were not investigated.

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