Evidence stuck in grieving mother's thigh

Evidence in a wrongful death lawsuit against the police – a stray bullet fired nearly a year ago – will have to be removed from the plaintiff's leg for forensic testing.

20 January 2020 | Justice

A N$3 million wrongful death lawsuit against the police stemming from the killing of a child who was struck by a stray bullet on Valentine's Day in 2019 can only proceed once the bullet is removed from his grieving mother's thigh for ballistics testing.

Close to a year after her son was killed when a police officer allegedly fired a shot at a pack of stray dogs, the same bullet that allegedly took the life of her young son remains lodged in Siegfriedine Kahimunu's thigh. In her particulars of claim filed in July last year, Kahimunu claims the fatal projectile was fired by a “certain Sergeant Laury Haimbodi” in the early morning hours of 14 February in Windhoek's Freedom Square location, while the family was sleeping inside a shack.

The bullet injured her and her older son, Rendy Kahimunu, and killed Muhupua Verundurka Kenahiwo Kahimunu (4).

A two-year old daughter was spared, court documents state.

Lawyers from Kangueehi & Kavendjii Inc last week filed a status report in the Windhoek High Court asking that the case be postponed to March to allow doctors to remove the bullet for testing.

“The defendants are unable to accept or deny liability, which will in turn determine whether the matter may be settled at this stage, as the investigations were incomplete and the ballistic report, which will determine whether the projectile concerned was fired from [Haimbondi's] firearm, is outstanding.”

Lawyer Tjingairi Kaurivi informed High Court Judge Nate Ndauendapo that the procedure would be scheduled at the Katutura State Hospital and the bullet will then be sent to the National Forensic Science Institutions for testing.

He explained that it was only discovered that the bullet was still lodged in her thigh after an enquiry into the missing ballistics report was made. Kaurivi however warned that it is unclear how long the wait for a final report would be as “experience dictates that some reports take as long as two years to be completed. Nonetheless, diligent efforts will be made to obtain a report within two months.”

The four defendants listed in the case include the safety and security ministry, the Namibian police inspector general, the government of Namibia and Haimbodi.

Kahimunu informed the court that the N$3 million in damages is based on the suffering she has endured in the form of emotional distress, trauma and injuries as a result of the incident and the loss of her son. She is asking the court to award an additional N$2 300 for the funeral costs.



Stray shots

Stray shots have repeatedly led to cases against the police.

In June 2019 a former Iveco bus driver, wounded by a stray bullet fired from a police officer's gun during a chase of a suspected robber, was awarded N$150 000 in damages after suing the police for more than N$1 million.

Ndilyowike Haishonga was accidentally shot in September 2016 and the bullet remains lodged in his body to this day, too close to the heart for it to be safely removed, doctor's said.

In September 2018 Lavinia Kagola (26), a mother of two, was killed by a stray bullet fired by police in the Kilimanjaro informal settlement in Katutura when a scuffle between law enforcement and a shebeen crowd broke out. Also in 2018, a stray bullet killed Johannes Muyingo who was holding his one-month-old baby, when a police officer fired a shot during a pursuit of a suspect.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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