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31.07.2002 General News

Gun attack as police patrol fires on wrong people

By Chronicle
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“The Angles were on guard, that is why we are alive, today our story. They kept on firing at our car and chased us over a distance of about six kilometers, we all bowed our heads and the car was criss-crossing the road, swaying from one side to another. We are lucky to be alive”.

Were the police just trigger-happy? Were they hungry to kill us? Was it lack of professionalism or common sense? Was it just gunplay? These were questions that kept rolling from the lips of Mr Henrry Vanderpuye, an engineer at Volta River Authority (VRA) -Akoosombo, and Mrs Frieda Badgier of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-Makola, Accra.

The twice civilians survived yet another gruesome gun attack from a Tema Police night patrol squad last Thursday night, while they were on their way to Akosombo from Accra. Three armed policemen and an armed soldier riding in a police night patrol car with registration number GPI 133 had carelessly opened fire at the two, injuring the driver, Mr Vanderpuye. Broken particles of glass from the windscreen entered the eyes of Mrs Frieda Badgier. Bullets pierced through Mr Vanderpuye's ear and he bled profusely. His car's windscreen was raised down by the gun power of the police, while the dash-board of the car was torn by bullets from the spontaneous gunshots.

The front and back seats of the Opel Vectra with registration number GT 2376 Q also soaked a lot of the bullets. At the end one-way gunfight, it emerged that the police were firing at the wrong people, the lead they were following bogus. They claim they had information from a passing Mercedes car that the occupants of the Opel Vectra were armed robbers.

No apology was rendered to the victims; instead, the rampaging policemen who were following a bogus lead threatened to ''blast'' them more. It was around 9pm Thursday, 25 July, this year and the venue of the attack was around Akuse-Junction. Enter, Mr Herry Vanderpugye, a visible shaken Christian of the International Gospel Church, who narrated his ordeal to Chronicle over the weekend.

Mr Vanderpuge said on that fateful night, he was driving on the motorway when he detected that his car was overheating. The overheating of his car compelled him to stop several times to cool the engine. He said while struggling with his car engine, he spotted Mrs Badgier, a fellow deaconess of the ICGC, who was also on her way to Akosombo from Accra.

''The overheating continued so we came back for some water in two jerry cans and bought a torchlight and a screw driver to arm ourselves for the journey. Anytime we drove about 15-20 kilometers we had to stop to allow the temperature of the engine to cool down or to flush out the water. We stopped about eight times'', Mr Vanderpuge said.

Between the Asuatuare and Akusw juction, Mr Vanderpuge said they began hearing noise that sounded like explosions but they thought that the sound emanated from a rickety car that by passed them. ''We become happy that at long last we were close to home. All of a sudden, we heard some kind of explosion. Frieda asked whether the noise was from our car and I said no. We heard a second explosion and l said it was perhaps from a vehicle passing by.

''Finally, we heard a voice from behind, saying 'Hey top! It dawned on us that were being attacked by armed robbers so we sped off. That place is noted for armed robbers and two workers of VRA have been attacked around that particular spot. ''Just then there were gunshots behind us and a number of them shattered the rear windscreen. We bowed our heads down to protect ourselves from being hit by bullets flying in the car.

''One of the bullets grazed through my ear so I shouted to Frieda that 'I have been hit!! Blood was oozing from my ears. We kept on speeding while they continued the chase and the firing. After some time we stretched them so the firing subsided, we thought it was all over, we felt a bit relaxed.

''Suddenly we saw them still pursuing us but our car was so overheated that we could no longer accelerate so they got closer and closer. We realized that we were getting closer to the 'Star' filling station between Akuse junction and Kpong so we just branched into the filling station but they stated firing again.

''There were some people there so we felt it was secured place to pack As soon as we packed, we saw that vehicle also pulled up by the road. That was when we realized that it was number GP 1133. Four armed men stepped out of the car, they were three policemen and one soldier and they asked to raise our hands which we did amid, more gunshots'' Exit Mr Vanderpuye.

Out of fear and anger, Mrs Frieda Badgier and Mr Vanderpuye told the Chronicle that they screamed at the police and queried them why they were shooting them. Mrs Frieda Badgier on her part said that the explanation given to them by the police, as the reason for shooting at them was that somebody in a Mercedes Benz car had given them their car number that they were armed robbers.

''We asked them why they didn't take time to find out or even trial us before shooting at us. We told them they didn’t act professionally. An argument ensured between us, we were angry, and they were also angry. They asked us to fellow them to Tema but we refused and told them that we could not trust them. She said the insisted that they were going to report the incident to the Akosombo police. According to her, the police could not intimidated or harass them because the security guys at the filling station also wielded locally manufactured guns.

Continuing she said, one of the policemen warned her that she was a woman and shouldn't talk to them in such a harsh tone and that if she didn't shut up he would 'blast' her. She revealed that even though the police offices claimed that somebody had given them their car number that they were armed robbers; it was when they were packed that they were shouting ''hey! What is the car number, write it down. If they did not know the car number why were they shouting on us, if they knew why were they asking?''

Mrs Badgier said what surprised them most was the fact that the police refused to either switch their lights on or blow their siren to indicate that it was police men. She said the professional approach internationally is that the police will first announce their presence either through blowing the siren, flashing their emergency lights after which they fire the tyres to ground the car

Asked how she felt at that moment, she said she was convinced that the police wanted to kill them because all the gunshots fired into the car were targeted at their head. ''I coiled myself into the front seat otherwise they would have sprayed my head with bullets. They were just shooting straight at us.''

She said professionally it was wrong judgment on the part of the police to be shooting at people to be even identifying who they were Mrs Badgier also wondered whether we were safe in the country with by handing over weapons to such unprofessional policemen.

Mrs Badgier said she takes serious exception to the fact that the police were trying to kill them without committing any offence, adding that it is rather the duty of the police to protect her life instead of taking it. According to Pastor K Baidoo of the International Central Gospel Church, at Akosombo, when Mr Vanderpuye arrived in Akosombo blood was dripping from his ears so they alerted the District Chief Executive of the area, Dr, G.K. Siaw, who accompanied them to the hospital.

Meanwhile, the attitude of the police has been reported to the Tema Regional Police Commander. The Regional police Commander, Mrs .O. Sika Nartey, confirmed to the Chronicle after two telephone calls to his office that the case had been reported to her outfit.

She however declined to comment on the issue because she had referred the case to her Second in Command (21c) to handle the matter. The Crime officer at Harbour police station also confirmed the story and said it was his boss who was handling the case.

Both Mr Vanderpuye and Mrs Badgier told Chronicle that they were having nightmares. ''If sleep nowadays I am always shouting, '' Mrs Bvadgier says, ''if I am driving and I recollected the incident, I unconsciously feel like bowing my head.

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