Mistaken identity leads to assault

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A Homevale resident has opened charges of assault, after he was allegedly beaten by the police when he was mistaken for the offender, who escaped the walls of the Kimberley Correctional Centre on January 19.

The escaped convict, Shaun Koopman, has still not been apprehended yet, amid reports that he is armed and is terrorising the community.

It is believed that he is currently hiding in Douglas.

The cross-border police have been placed on alert, should he try to flee the country.

Elroyd van Rooyen said that he was walking from Colville to Homevale on Sunday when he was pounced on by police officers, who were conducting a stake-out for the runaway prisoner in the veld.

Van Rooyen’s brother indicated the police accused his brother of being the escapee and grabbed him from behind.

“My brother was assaulted with a firearm and the police proceeded to kick him in the stomach and body while he was lying on the ground. They never asked for any form of identity before he was attacked.”

He added that his brother was later taken to the Witdam police station where he was allowed to wash his face and was released.

“They explained that they were not sure who they had to arrest. How can you arrest someone if you don’t know what they look like? My brother was dropped off near the Homestead shopping centre, where the police handed him a cool drink. By the time I arrived to fetch him, his face was still full of blood.”

Koopman was also investigated in 1999, for being in possession of a .56 mm rifle while in custody, that he had allegedly obtained from the boot of a car belonging to a prison official.

The firearm was confiscated from his possession and he was prevented from escaping or threatening anyone.

Questions have also arisen over why Koopman was allowed to work in the agricultural fields, prior to his prison break, with full knowledge that he was a high-risk prisoner.

Deputy regional commissioner for the Department of Correctional Services in the Free State and Northern Cape region, Grace Molatedi, said they were waiting for feedback regarding the incident after the departmental investigations unit conducted an investigation in 2012.

“A follow-up will be made in this regard although the allegation that offender had a firearm, while in custody, could not be confirmed. No recommendations were made that disciplinary actions should be instituted against any official.”

She added that the offender was considered to be a minimum risk because he was sentenced for theft and was therefore permitted to work in the agricultural fields.

Molatedi indicated that the department’s Emergency Support Team and the police were following up all leads and were also searching for the offender in the Douglas area.

Police spokesman, Lieutenant Donald Mdhluli, said the police had alerted the border police and deployed members to the outskirts of South Africa.

“Anyone who has information regarding the suspect is requested to contact the Roodepan Police on 053 807 4406/7 or call 08600 10111,” Mdhluli added.

He confirmed that the Kimberley police were investigating a case of assault with intention to cause grievous bodily harm.

“The incident took place on Sunday at about 1pm. It is alleged the male complainant was walking next to Perseverance College when he was taken in by police.

“He was then allegedly assaulted by police and members from Correctional Services. According to the information from the docket, there are no names or number of suspects mentioned.”

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