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Student killed by a stray police bullet during fracas in Kisumu

As thousands of students returned to their various schools for Term Two on Tuesday, the family of 19-year-old Jecinter Achieng was thrown into mourning.

Ms Achieng was killed by a stray police bullet on Tuesday morning while on a motorcycle as she went shopping for school supplies.

She was among four people who sustained gunshot wounds when police opened fire on a hostile crowd in Kisumu’s Jua Kali area. The other three have been discharged after undergoing successful surgeries at different health facilities in Kisumu town.

Achieng was rushed to the Aga Khan Hospital by good Samaritans, but she succumbed to her injuries before treatment, said Dr Patrick Eshiwani, the facility’s medical director.

“The young lady was brought in and when we examined her, we found that she had already succumbed to the gunshot wounds,” Dr Eshiwani said.

At the hospital’s mortuary, the teenager’s mother wept uncontrollably after seeing the lifeless body of her daughter, who was a Form Two student at Rangala Girls High School in Siaya County.

Achieng’s brother-in-law, Mr Charles Amollo, who was among the first to arrive at the mortuary, painfully recounted how he had sent the girl to buy the school supplies only to have her life ended by the police officer.

“Jecinta’s death has hit me hard and has affected us as a family because she was really helpful to me and my expectant wife during that short period,” Mr Amollo said.

The Form Two student had been out of school for almost a month due to a lack of school fees, but her brother-in-law had planned to pay the rest of her fees so that she could continue her studies uninterrupted. That dream has now been shattered forever.

At Kisumu County Referral Hospital, Mr Kevin Ochieng, the boda boda rider whose motorcycle Achieng was riding at the time of the shooting, survived but with a bullet wound on his right arm. The same bullet that pierced his arm is the one that killed his passenger.

“I just saw my passenger lying in a pool of blood. I tried to ride the bike and felt my arm go numb, that’s when I realised I had also been shot,” said Mr Ochieng.

Confrontation

Two other people, including Mr James Omondi, were also shot during the fracas that was triggered by a confrontation between police and jua kali artisans.

Trouble started when police officers chased a public service vehicle into Jua Kali area. The driver got out and ran towards the mechanics’ area. The police retreated as a crowd began to form. Other traders in the area then joined the fray. That is when one of the officers started shooting.

“During the scuffle, the girl, who was a passenger on a motorbike, was shot dead and two people were injured in the leg and hand as the trigger-happy officer shot at people,” said Jack Osen, the leader of the Jua Kali artisans.

He added: “We are demanding justice for the three because the police cannot just shoot people at will.”

Angered by the turn of events, traders took to the streets. Activities in the city were paralysed for most of the morning by the protests.

Kisumu County Police Commander Alphonse Kimanthi assured the mechanics that the matter would be investigated.

“We will carry out our investigations to find out what led to this incident and take necessary action against those found culpable,” said Mr Kimanthi.

He later ordered the release of five matatus that had been impounded in the morning during a crackdown on vehicles flouting traffic rules.

Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o described the incident as sad and sent condolences to Achieng’s family. He also wished those injured a speedy recovery.

Prof Nyong’o said the police should have used tear gas instead of live bullets in their confrontation with the matatu operators and Jua Kali artisans.

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