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Manjai shooting incident: Driver convicted on two counts

Mar 20, 2015, 11:33 AM | Article By: Dawda Faye

Mustapha Njie, a driver who was charged with four counts of failure to stop when required to stop, disobedience to lawful orders, rash or negligent act causing death and unlicensed driving, was on 19 March 2015 convicted and sentenced by Magistrate Gomez of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court.

Njie was fined D4,000 in default to serve three years in prison, on count one, and D1,000 in default to serve one year on count four, following his plea of guilt.

To prove counts two and three, ASP Mballow called his first witness to tell the court whether he could remember what happened on 7 March 2015.

The witness, Sulayman Bah, told the court that he lives at Latrikunda German and is a civil servant.

He said he recognised the accused, and also knew Ya Binta Jarju, adding that she was his girlfriend.

Bah remembered what happened 7 March 2015, as he and Ya Binta Jarju were at Samba’s Bar and Restaurant.

They boarded a taxi around 11 p.m to go home, after he had dinner at the restaurant.

The accused took the Manjai highway. Ya Binta was sitting right behind the driver, on the left, and he was sitting on the right side, at the backseat.

On their way home, just near the Elton Petrol Station, there was a checkpoint and when they arrived at the checkpoint, the accused realised he did not wear the seat-belt.

The accused told them that he was not wearing a seat-belt, and the security officers would disturb him.

Mr Bah testified that he told the accused not to waste their time, but the accused told them the security officers would not disturb him.

At the checkpoint, the accused refused to stop when he was asked to stop by the security officers.

The moment the accused continued, he and Ya Binta shouted at him, but he failed to stop.

Seconds later, they saw a security vehicle coming behind at high speed.

Mr Bah told the court they again asked the accused to stop, and told him he was putting their lives at risk; but the driver again failed to stop.

The security officers managed to overtake them, stood in front and fired three warning shots.

After those shots, the accused managed to escape into a narrow and dark road, he said.

The moment the accused turned, the security officers started shooting at the taxi, and he cautioned the accused that if he continued they would all lose their lives.

Mr Bah told the court that he then pounced on the accused, and managed to change the driver’s direction. He battled with him for a while, because he wanted the accused to stop the vehicle.

They eventually reached some flower trees that serve as a fence, and the vehicle stopped.

Mr Bah testified that he then turned around and saw Ya Binta’s head full of blood, adding that he got out of the car, took her in his arms and shouted for the security officers to help.

He said that at that moment, he did not believe that Ya Binta was dead.

He added that he told the security officers that she was not dead, and further asked them to take her to hospital; but she did not respond.

He said one of them told him that they would contact the Manjai police.

The landlord where the taxi stopped took the accused to the police station.

He (Bah) then called his family who came, and he took Ya Binta’s phone and went with his family to Manjai Police Station first and made a statement.

They were then taken to Kairaba Police Station for more questioning, and while at the station he was not aware of anything concerning Ya Binta, because he last saw her at the scene.

At that juncture, ASP Mballow asked whether Bah would be able to identify Ya Binta’s photo, and he answered in the positive, adding that he could identify her by her face and the clothes she wore.

ASP Mballow gave him some photos, which he identified. He then applied to tender them and the defence counsel, Lawyer Edu Gomez, did not raise any objection.

The photos were admitted by the court.

Mr Bah further told the court that after giving his statement, he was detained for a while, but was not put in a cell, and was told that it was for security reasons.

Finally, they were taken to Banjul for more questioning and he was granted bail.

Lawyer Gomez in cross-examining the witness asked whether, apart from the three warning shots, there were any other shots fired by the security officers at the vehicle.

Mr Bah said there were, and this was after the accused wanted to escape.

He was asked whether he could remember how many shots were fired, but said could not, adding that shots were fired.

Asked to tell the court whether the street was dark and narrow, he said it was very dark and narrow.

He was asked whether he could tell the court how the accused was speeding.

ASP Mballow objected, and said the question was calling for an expert opinion. Speeding under the Motor Traffic Act can only be determined by a device and not even by the driver, the police prosecutor added.

The witness is not an expert, he continued, and urged the court to disallow the question.

Lawyer Gomez responded that the prosecutor had misunderstood and misconstrued the purpose of expert evidence, adding that Mr Bah was a witness of facts and that he (Bah) was present.

Magistrate Gomez ruled against the prosecutor, and said the answer given by the witness was not an opinion, adding that the witness could say whether the taxi was travelling at a high speed or not.

Mr Bah told the court that it was travelling at a high speed.

The witness was asked to tell the court whether the subsequent shots were aimed at the vehicle.

Mr Bah said they were aimed at the vehicle, adding that they hit the car and that was what killed his girlfriend.

ASP Mballow objected, and said the answer given by the witness should be expunged, adding that the particulars in count two clearly stated the cause of Ya Binta’s death.

He said it was for the court to determine the cause of death.

Lawyer Gomez replied that they were not in court to pass judgment, and that justice is evidence-based.

He asked what was wrong with the answer that the shots, which were fired at the vehicle, killed Ya Binta.

This time, the magistrate ruled in favour of the prosecution.

The case was adjourned to 24 March 2015.