By Assan Sallah, LTN, Germany.
May I seize this opportunity to extend my sincere condolences to the families of the fallen heroes, to the Gambia Police Force through the Inspector General of Police, and to the entire Gambian population, as we mourn the late officers who were killed in cold blood.
Equally, I pray that the Almighty Allah grant WPC Ancy a speedy recovery to join her family and colleagues in the Gambia Police Force soon.
Since the tragic incident of the shooting of three (3) Police Intervention Unit (PIU) officers of the Gambia Police Force on Tuesday, 12th September 2023 at the Sukuta Traffic Light Junction, various versions of the incident emerged, thanks to the influence of social media.
Moving forward, this sad incident led to the untimely death of PC Pateh Jawo and PC Sang J Gomez on the same day, while the female officer WPC Ancy Jawo is still battling with her health at the country’s main referral hospital, the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in Banjul where she is admitted.
The police have since mounted investigations into the matter and are trying hard to establish the facts regarding this incident. So far the crime scene was visited, materials have been recovered and a suspect was arrested and is still being investigated.
However, here are some suggestions that could help the police in the investigation considering the nature of the incident.
The Bullets recovered
The bullet particles recovered from the deceased officers and the injured officer as well as the empty cartridges found at the scene will be very helpful to the police in their investigation, particularly in establishing the type of pistol used in committing this crime.
In this regard, the services of ballistic and forensic expert(s) would be needed.
Besides the establishment of the weapon used, investigators will also be able to detect the level (range) at which the bullets penetrated the victims and could measure the approximate distance between the alleged shooter and the victims.
The foot print of the alleged shooter from the time he left the tar road at the crime scene if not tampered with, will also be of use in the investigation.
Social media and communications
The influence of social media especially in this case has been distracting the police in their investigation. The frequent updates and actions taken by the police since the beginning of this incident, in addition to audio recordings going viral on WhatsApp forums, random media reports of updates or breaking news of the developments regarding this incident have been attracting the attention of the police.
In my view, the police can investigate this incident without paying too much attention on social media activities. They should learn to ignore information coming from social media and do their investigation properly as required.
All they need is to get a proper team of experts to do the investigation and move on to prosecute any suspect(s) if they have substantial evidence.
The arrest of Sabally and Sonko: Was it necessary at the time?
After few days into their investigation, the police invited Momodou Sabally, former Secretary General and head of the Civil Service (June 2013 – July 2014), who is also the current Campaign Manager of the UDP and Sheriffo Sonko, a nominated Councillor at the Brikama Area Council for questioning at the Kairaba Police Station. The duo were later detained separately and released on bail on Tuesday. Currently, Mr. Sabally and Mr. Sonko have been charged with ‘threatening a public officer’.
The motive behind their invitation for questioning is believed to be in connection to information they shared on Facebook atleast one week before the unfortunate incident, calling out the PIU for being brutal on civilians especially during the recent court case of the current Chairman of Brikama Area Council Yankuba Darboe.
The police might have thought that the information shared by Momodou Saballyand Sheriffo Sonko and the subsequent incident might have been interlinked.
However, even if that was the case, I am of the view that the police could have gathered sufficient evidence linking the two before inviting them for questioning, in the absence of which, there was no need to invite them for questioning.
Yes, Mr. Sabally and Mr. Sonko shared information on Facebook about the PIU, but if the police couldn’t find that information as a threat since the time they posted it until a week or more later, then even if an unfortunate incident happened, they should have established clear evidence that is interlinked to such incident before inviting them for questioning.
In my opinion, the police could have used all available investigative methods and skills to investigate the activities of anyone suspected to make any influence on social media, and gather sufficient evidence linking their statements to this incident before taking any further action.
Having watched some videos (shared online) of people who gathered at the crime scene immediately after the incident, I have observed that the crime scene was not properly protected and there is a possiblitythat some essential marks and/or articles could no longer be traced due to public obstruction at the scene.
Under normal circumstances crime scenes are protected to allow the police do their job and get traces, articles, or marks that will be left at the scene to lead them into the investigation.
Therefore, I want to seize this opportunity again to appeal to the general public to always avoid going very close crime scenes before the arrival of the police. There is a saying that “in every little contact there is a trace “. Thus , whenever one enters or exits a place, something physical is added to and removed from the scene.
Besides, Edmond Locard a forensic science pioneer in France, formulated the theory which states, “Every contact leaves a trace“.
Looking at the complex nature of this case and conflicting reports and information being circulated, it is imperative for the Gambia Police Force to:
*Establish an Independent Panel of Investigation comprising experts including former security officers who have vast experience in investigations of this nature to assist in the investigation.
*Encourage Gambia government to create a First Aid and Emergency Response Unit in every region across the country. This unit will comprise of staff from the Police, Health ministry, Fire Service and Red Cross. Their tasks will include responding to any incidents, accidents and unfortunate disasters by evacuating victims and protect the scenes of incident before the arrival of the police.
However, government should also provide resources, office space and Ambulance services to this unit in all the seven administrative regions of the country. They should also have a Toll Free Number for the public to call anytime an incident happen.
In a nutshell, this is necessary because the country is still mourning and the police need to get to bottom of the case and tell Gambians who is/are involved in this heinous crime.
May the souls of the fallen officers rest in peace. Ameen!