Rifle that killed teen jammed: expertComment on this story
Johannesburg - The R-5 rifle that killed Soweto teenager Thato Mokoka probably stopped firing because a single bullet got stuck, a ballistic expert testified on Wednesday.
Warrant Officer Eugene Lurie told the High Court in Johannesburg he extracted the bullet from the rifle when he examined it.
“If that bullet hadn't got stuck, the gun would have continued firing until the magazine was emptied, or until the handler removed his finger from the trigger.”
Lurie was testifying in the trial of student Constable Sipho Mbatha, who is accused of shooting Mokoka, 16, while he lay on his stomach outside his grandmother's house in Bramfischerville, Soweto, during a police raid on February 14.
Lurie agreed with an earlier witness, Warrant Officer Lewis Matlala, who said the rifle was not handled correctly.
“The distance between the shots also shows that there was no particular target,” testified Matlala, who is responsible for training police officers.
Matlala was shown pictures of the teenager's bullet wounds. He said an uncontrolled shooting came about when the firearm was not properly gripped, when there was no sight alignment, or the handler was not breathing properly while firing.
Matlala said it was possible the shots fired were not directly aimed at Mokoka.
Judge Kathleen Satchwell said she would probably disregard Matlala's opinion as he was not at the scene to confirm that this was the case.
Matlala told the court Mbatha was a competent student who had got full marks in a shooting test. Asked about police training, Matlala said officers were taught to always operate in pairs, so one could provide cover for the other.
In earlier proceedings, the court was told Mbatha had been left alone with Mokoka while other officers raided the shack where he had been sitting with friends.
“Those officers were wrong,” said Matlala.
Police went to the Mokoka residence with two boys and two women who had alleged the teenager was part of a gang that had been terrorising local residents. He was also accused of owning a firearm.
In earlier proceedings, a friend of Mokoka's said the teen was part of a group called the Boys with Advices (sic), but denied it had terrorised the community. The gun police were searching for was not found.
Mbatha has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge. He claims his rifle accidentally went off when he bent over to search Mokoka.
The trial continues on Thursday. - Sapa