Cape Town - The fractious relationship between police and residents of Netreg, Bonteheuwel, was dealt another blow on Sunday when police allegedly killed a man on one of the area’s main roads.
The incident followed an attack by residents on two police officers who were responding to a crime scene.
This comes against the backdrop of an inquiry into the breakdown of relations between police and the community in Khayelitsha.
On Monday, residents rallied behind the slain man’s family, who have vowed not to rest until the police officer who allegedly killed their only son is tried, convicted and put behind bars.
Jerome Brown, 36, was shot in the face at close range on Sunday afternoon, allegedly by a police officer, close to the home where he lived with his mother.
His family has claimed that he was an innocent victim and posed no threat to police at the time of the shooting.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut has confirmed that the incident was the subject of an investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) to determine the circumstances which led to his death. This was also confirmed by Ipid.
Brown’s sister, Mushfieqah Ismail, said on Monday: “I will co-operate with the Ipid during the investigation, but don’t for a moment think I am leaving it there. I don’t know how these things work, but I will consult a lawyer, and my family and I will not rest until we see that man [who fired the shot] behind bars.”
A friend of Brown who witnessed his death and who asked not to be named, said she “will never forget” the face of the man who fired. She said she would testify in court.
Yesterday, police revealed the circumstances of the shooting.
“[On Sunday] at approximately 5.30pm, two SAPS members attached to the Bishop Lavis police station came under attack in the Kreefgat area of Netreg when they responded to a complaint of a shooting in progress in the area. Upon arrival, the police members were approached by a riotous group of people who smashed their vehicles windows and assaulted the members while they were trapped inside the vehicle. Attempts to disarm the members failed… in the process a shot was discharged from one of the official’s firearms. During the incident, 34-year-old Jerome Brown was fatally wounded.”
Residents at the scene before and during the shooting corroborated this order of events. They said two unknown men from outside the community started firing shots on Netreg Road at about 4.40pm on Sunday.
“When police arrived on the scene about an hour later the community turned on them. We have had many promises from the police that they will protect our children from these gangsters that come from outside,” said Jackline Brown, Brown’s sister.
“This was the theme of a meeting [with police] where the whole community was present a few weeks ago. People are fed up with their slow response time. By the time they got here the suspects were long gone. Instead of arresting the real trouble makers, the police harass our community. That is one of the reasons they were attacked,” she said.
Police condemned the assault on the officers.
“Both members who were attacked were admitted to hospital and are recovering. Additional resources were deployed to the area to restore order,” Traut said. “No one has been arrested in connection with the attack on our members. However, investigations will continue. We will not allow violence to be perpetrated against police officers. Every endeavour will be made to bring those responsible to book.”
He said the incident was a “deliberate attempt from individuals in the community to intimidate the SAPS and to protect gang members who are keeping communities hostage”.
But Brown’s mother, Fathima Williams, and various witnesses interviewed by the Cape Argus said Brown posed no threat to police.
“He had been drinking from the night before,” Williams said. “He was unarmed and very, very drunk when he walked over to the scene where people were attacking the officers. The police even called him over to talk to him moments before he was shot.”
Williams sat next to her son’s body for hours while forensics officers collected evidence on the scene.
A witness said Brown had been shot at point-blank range.
Brown was released after 16 years in jail in March this year. He had since started a job as an electrician.
“We were all so happy that he would be with us for Christmas for the first time since he was a teenager, but he was the most excited of all,” said Williams.
Ismail viewed her brother’s body in the morgue on Monday. “He had been shot through the eye. There were still white spots where the gunpowder had discoloured his face,” she said.
Netreg ward councillor Nas Abrahams was told about the incidents shortly before being contacted by the Cape Argus. “I’m in no position to comment. I would first have to find out what happened,” he said.
Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer condemned the attack on the police officers.
Regarding allegations of slow police response, he said: “What kind of society do we live in where people use violence to voice their concerns about service delivery from police?
“There are many channels to escalate their concerns. One of them would be to take it up directly with my office.”