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John Kairia: Police shot, left me for dead

By Job Weru | Jun 8th 2016 | 4 min read
John Kairia who was shot unlawfully by police officers five times and shattered his left leg and right hand while he was a form three student aged 17 years in 2007. (PHOTO: KIBATA KIHU/ STANDARD.)

It was on the evening of March 2, 2007 and I was studying in my room at my parent’s home in Kiamwangi village, Nyeri County, when my mother decided to send me to a nearby shop.

After I ran the errand, I ventured back home and decided to first go to a stream behind our house to wash my hands. Little did I know that I was placing myself at the centre of a firing ring courtesy of officers from the flying squad and Karatina Police Station.

At the time, I was 17 years old and a Form Two student at Kiamwangi Day Secondary school in Mathira.

While at the stream, I saw a group of armed men in civilian clothes surround our compound and I decided to get back into the house. I had only made a few steps before they started shooting at me forcing me to duck to a nearby fence where I hid.

I alerted my father, Rev Stephen Mwangi Ndethi, who was constructing a new house within the compound. The men continued to shoot at me and never once did they ask me to identify myself. They followed me into my hideout and continued with their firing spree.

They shot me repeatedly and as I lay on the ground bleeding profusely, my mind tried to make sense of what was happening. I had no idea who the men were or why they wanted to kill me. It was only later that I got to learn these were policemen on a mission to track down thugs who had raided a nearby shop. Clearly, they had been given a false description of the thieves.

I heard one of them shout: “Tumalize huyu (let us kill him)!” And I knew I was done for. There was nowhere to run and no-one to help us.

That I am alive is all thanks to my neighbour, Esther Wamaitha, who boldly rushed to the scene and lay on top of my blood soaked body telling police to kill her instead if they believed I was a robber.

As Wamaitha was pleading with the police not to kill me, another squad was harassing my father who they accused of harbouring criminals.

They would not listen or relent even after my mother produced my student identification documents neither did it matter to them that I was in a t-shirt with the school name inscribed on the front and back as per my student ID.

Sanity was eventually restored after the area chief arrived and confirmed to the police that I was not a criminal. That may have put an end to that ordeal but for my family and I, it was the genesis of a long torturous journey that left me almost crippled, and spelt economic doom for my family.

John Kairia (right) who was shot unlawfully by police officers five times and shattered his left leg and right hand while he was a form three student aged 17 years in 2007. He is flanked by his parents Alice Wakonyu and Stephen Mwangi showing a bullet's scar. (PHOTO: KIBATA KIHU/ STANDARD)

The police took off without a second look at me and it was my father and other villagers who rushed me to Karatina District Hospital where medics found I had five bullet wounds in my limbs and bullets still lodged in my body.

I stayed here for one week before I was transferred to Nyeri Provincial General Hospital where I was bedridden for more than three months.

My father decided to pursue the matter and while the Government eventually admitted liability, all they did was send Sh23,520 to clear my medical bill at Nyeri Provincial.

No compensation for the grievous harm caused or for the fact that my education suffered greatly due to the amount of time I had to spend out of class, neither did it factor in that what I can do is now limited since my limbs are not as strong as they used to be. They reduced me to a man who is now dependent on his parents and my twin brother.

In seeking justice for what I went through, my father wrote to the Attorney General’s office declaring his intention to sue the State. Acting Chief Litigation Counsel, Makena Muchiri, forwarded the letter to former Police Commissioner Major General Hussein Ali demanding investigations into the claims.

The letter indicated that a civil suit may be instituted against the police by my family upon expiry of a 30-day period. It further indicated that the ministry/department risked paying damages cost and other legal consequences arising from the suit if no instructions are received from the Police Commissioner.

We never got a response from the police and my father could not institute a civil suit against the State since he did not have money to hire a lawyer. My medical costs had impoverished my family.

My father had been forced to sell a water pump which we used to pump water from the river for irrigation. He also sold family cows and almost everything we had to ensure that I continued attending medical clinics that were prescribed following my discharge from hospital.

It has been nine years but the events of that day continue to haunt me and my family to date. That agents of the State could do this and walk scot-free leaving us to bear the brunt of their careless actions is a travesty of justice.

These reckless policemen took away my future and impoverished my family. It is only right that the Government compensates me. Does it mean there can be no justice for me just because we are too poor to afford a lawyer? This is not right.

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