Woman shot by police stray bullet lodged in her body calls for justice three years later

Mary Lisihili 33 years old during an interview on August 1, 2018 at I&M building office in Nairobi, Mary who was hit by a stray bullet on her chest and she has survived it for the past three years. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Life for Mary Pesa, 33, has been bleak after a life-changing experience that has led to pain-filled days and nights.

On July 2015, a bullet found a home in her chest, planting itself in her left rib cage, near the heart after it passed through her left arm and into her chest.

Her nightmare began when a stray bullet was fired in the air on that fateful Tuesday evening by a police officer that was calming a crowd that was baying for his blood after they insulted him for harassing a suspect while arresting him.

Unaware of the commotion that ensued downstairs, Mary was busy collecting clothes from the balcony of her flat located on the sixth floor when misfortune struck.

A policeman had been cornered by a crowd that was fast advancing towards him and his collegues. He was forced to shoot in the air to disperse it.

Excessive bleeding

“When I heard gunshots, I ran back into the house as other people scampered for safety. I fell down as gunshots continued to rent the air,” says Mary. Unknowingly, she had been hit by a bullet.

Even as she lay on the floor of her house, she could feel something wet flowing on her chest. She assumed her breast milk was leaking since she was nursing her then one-month-old daughter, PraiseLiz Vuyanzi.

It is only when Douglas Agini, Mary’s husband, who had been asleep put on the lights, that the couple discovered that Mary had been wounded.

Meanwhile, blood continued to ooze from her chest. Were it not for the left hand that reduced the impact of the bullet going to the heart, Mary would probably not be alive today.

“I was afraid that she may die due to excessive bleeding since she had just given birth a month ago. It was almost midnight. I called a neighbour and together we took my wife to Shalom Hospital in Kitengela,” says Douglas. Doctors who ordered an X-ray found that a bullet was lodged in Mary’s left rib cage. The hospital referred them to the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) for more specialised care.

“After a long wait at KNH, Mary was admitted at 5pm the following day,” says Douglas. After further tests were done, husband and wife received bad news; the bullet could not be removed since it was lodged in a very delicate place - near the heart. “I feel a lot of pain in the chest and in my hands. I cannot do heavy work, even doing laundry is a problem. I cannot help my jobless husband put food on the table. I am so weak,” says the mother of three.

Douglas reported the incident at the Embakasi Police Station (OB 37/30/7/2015). The following day, police officers from the station visited Mary at KNH.

“They told me to thank God because I was lucky to be alive since many people die after they are shot. They said that I should let the bullet stay intact as they conducted investigations and that they would be back,” says Mary, who stayed at KNH hospital for one week.

The doctor prescribed painkillers, which she still takes. Despite her pain, Mary has been forced to seek work as a house-help to boost her family’s income.

The bullet in her chest now threatens to render her paralysed. It has been a life of pain and agony for Mary and her family as they search for justice. Her lawyer Gideon Solonka of Solonka & Company Advocates filed a case at the Milimani Commercial Courts Civil suit No 4878 of 2016 suing the Inspector General of Police as first defendant and the Attorney General as second defendant.

The case was ruled in favour of Mary on October 26, 2017, awarding her Sh4.4 million, general damages at 12 per cent per annum and amounting to Sh126,246. A further interest on special damages of Sh942.10 was also awarded, totalling to Sh4.5 million. However, no money has been given to her since. “The plaintiff suffered spinal injuries resulting in paraplegia. Taking into account the seriousness of the injuries, the multiple fractures and the bullet which is still lodged in the plaintiff’s body, I do hereby assess general damages for the pain and suffering at Sh4 million,” ruled Principal Magistrate D W Mburu.

According to D J L Amugada, who wrote a medical report dated July 25, 2018, Mary suffered bullet wounds on her left forearm, fracture of the right distal phalanx of the little finger, bullet wound on the left breast with profuse bleeding and bullet lodged in her chest.

An X-ray confirmed fracture and bullet lodged in chest. “The Government has not paid her despite our communication to them that our client is in dire need of medical attention.,” said Solonka.

Dr Amugada says Mary needs to be reviewed by a cardiothoracic surgeon to ascertain whether the bullet can be removed, but she cannot afford the specialised assessment.

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