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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Liberia: Brutal Force? Death in Caldwell, Deaths in Gold Mines

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By H. Matthew Turry

Liberia’s new authorities are confronted with renewed cases of unmeasured discharge of firearms and reckless law enforcement leading to the loss of innocent lives.

In barely 72 hours two civilians were killed, three at goldmines in Grand Cape Mount County where violent protest left several persons injured and the other in Monrovia where  the security unit of the power utility backed by armed police officers chased and mugged allegedly to death a helpless resident of Caldwell.

Authorities have commissioned multiple inquiries into the killings to establish the facts.

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The Liberia Electricity Corporation’s efforts to mitigate illegal connection to the power grid, turned sad when its power theft crew applied disproportionate force and poor judgement resulting into the death of a 42-year- old man identified as  Joecephus S. Tukpeh in the Caldwell New Georgia, Bushrold Island community.

The incident occurred March 1,  where the LEC team was executing a raid.

Josephus Tukpeh was allegedly beaten and murdered by officers of LNP from and the LEC power theft team, according to people who witnessed the fatal episode.

Vanell Tukpeh, wife of the deceased told reporters her husband was not involved with power theft as claimed by the LEC team.

Explaining in grief she said “the new tenant that move in our house said  the people are stealing meters, I beg your to please place my meter in the house, so we said okay no problem because, we just experienced something like that. So we placed the meter in the house and we told our tenant we didn’t need power theft.

“I was away from the house,  my husband called me and said please send me the tenant number. When I sent him the number, I asked what is going on, he said LEC people but they said they want to see the meter and the tenant is nowhere around. So, when he placed the call on speaker to the tenant he said I begging you can they come tomorrow? When I called my husband, called my husband I couldn’t get him, not knowing the LEC people have already beaten my husband to death.

“According to those that were around, my husband ran into a lady’s shop for rescue. The LEC people entered the house and beat the woman son and my husband. So when they beat my husband and killed him, they took him to the clinic and forcibly open the clinic door and dropped him on the bed.”

Vanell narrated she and her husband got married March 25, 2023 and have planned to celebrate their first  their Wedding anniversary this year.

For his part the neighbour that was on the scene, Fedrick Segar said the LEC power theft people were shouting rogue, rogue.

“When I went in the house,  the LEC people were like shouting rogue, rogue, so I asked where is the rogue, then the Power Theft man said who are you; so I asked but you in my house and you asking me who am I? okay this is my house, then he said here is the rogue. So I said this man is not rogue, then he slapped the man, and I asked why you slapped the man? Then the other guy turned to me and slapped me, I slapped him too.

“The guy took off his  safety helmet and knocked it on Joecephus head. When he did that the man bent his head down, right there I noticed he was unconscious, the others guys started running in the house with one PSU officer who started asking for the man, so I said here the man lying helpless”, he added.

Montserrado County District #15 Representative Abu Kamara described the LEC staff conduct as wrong, wicked, evil and devilish to the highest extent.

There is no reason someone life should be taken away because they claimed that the person was on power theft,” Kamara said.

He assured the family that justice will prevail to the fullest without delay.

“LEC I don’t think the government sent your to come and kill people. If that is the case district 15 is a different place. If you suspected that he was on power theft, you should have taken him to justice, but not to kill him.

“We give the government 72 hours to investigate and give Josephus Tukpeh Justice.

For his part Margibi County Senator Nathaniel McGill who upon hearing the sad news led a team to Caldwell to sympathize with the grieving family as early as 8am Saturday morning said: “I am very speechless, Joecephus was a very young man who had a family. All I can say to you the family is that justice will prevail.

“This will be the last death that LEC will orchestrate. I asked the family to be strong. I want the community to be calm. Do not  to violence, we are here to stand with you to the end”, he said.

Senator McGill  said, the government needs to conduct a thorough investigation into the  matter and prosecute those responsible for the death of Mr. Josephus Tukpeh.

“We give the government of Liberia 72 hours to give Josephus Tukpeh and his Family Justice. The death rate and police brutality towards citizens in the country in recent times is escalating and President Joseph Nyuma Boakai Sr  needs to do the needful to keep the peace.”

Both Lawmakers strongly emphasized the need for swift action in addressing the unfortunate incident to uphold the rule of law.

When contacted the CEO and Administrator of the Stockton Creek Health Center Dr. Mohammed Ali Bah said he was not present when the LEC power theft team take the body of Joecephus at the center.

“I was at A. M Dogliotti College of Medicine when I received call from one of the nurses that I need to come quick. So, I hurriedly came and saw people all around the clinic, some were throwing stones, others were destroying things. I asked the nurse what actually happened, and she said people in LEC car came and stopped at the gate just get down with this man and stepped the gate forcibly enter and dash this man on the ground.

“When the nurse looked at the man and said but this man seems to be lifeless, they jumped in their car and ran away with another police officer in the LEC fence.  We all waited and the police came and said this is government body, so I should take over, and we left with them until the took the body by 9PM. Body still here in close to 6-7 hours”, he narrated.

Responding to the situation the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) expresses deep regret and sadness over the tragic incident that occurred in the Caldwell New Georgia involving assigned police officers and the  anti-power theft team, which resulted in the demise of one Mr. Josephus S. Tukpeh a resident of the community.

The LEC in a release issued Saturday March 2, 2024 said it denounces any form of violence and assures the public of its unwavering support to the police investigation to ensure that justice is served.

“In response to this unfortunate event, the Liberia Electricity Corporation is collaborating with law enforcement authorities, who have launched an investigation to ascertain the facts surrounding the incident. LEC pledges its fullest cooperation and support to ensure a thorough and transparent investigation,” the power utility said.

The release noted that LEC immediately dispatched a team Friday evening, at 7:00 pm, and met with the immediate family of the deceased, including parents and other relatives at the victim’s residence in Caldwell.

The LEC release added that the management as well convened Saturday morning at about 11:00 am with the entire family present, and will continue to engage with the family and all stakeholders to gather further information and offer support during this challenging time.

“With heartfelt sympathy, the management of Liberia Electricity Corporation extends its deepest condolences to the bereaved family. The corporation assures the family of its unwavering support throughout the investigation process and during this period of mourning”, the release concluded.

In relation to the LEC incident, the Liberia National Police said they have arrested every last member of the power theft team that were on the scene and are in Police custody.

Speaking at the press conference at the LNP  headquarters, on Saturday, March 2, 2024, the police Inspector General Gregory Coleman assure the family and the public that the investigation will be void of any interferences.

“I understand how trust and legitimacy in law enforcement body has been degraded over the period of time , but we are going to be transparent as possible. The Liberia National Police is at the journey of a  new dawn, this new leadership will be transparent”, he said.

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