Durban - Efforts to repatriate the body of Lindani Myeni who was shot and killed by officers from the Honolulu police department in Hawaii, US, on Wednesday night are under way.
A GoFundMe account – with a target of over R1 million to take care of body’s transportation back to his hometown Esikhaleni, near Richards Bay, funeral costs and possible legal fees – was created on Friday by close friends and family.
Myeni, 29, a mechanical engineer and former professional rugby player who had a green card interview scheduled for next week, was living on the island with his American wife Lindsay and their two young children.
On the night of his murder his wife said he had left their home and gone for a drive to clear his head. About 20 minutes later she contacted him and he told her he was on his way home.
Police, however, allege that Myeni entered a home in the Nuuanu area, exhibiting strange behaviour. He allegedly sat down, took off his shoes and struck up a conversation with the homeowners who were in turn upset and asked him to leave. Myeni then went to sit in his vehicle, the police claimed.
During a press conference on Thursday, Susan Ballard, police chief of the Honolulu police department, told the media that three officers were dispatched to a robbery in progress and when they arrived at the residence, the homeowner pointed out Myeni as the suspect.
When police arrived, Myeni allegedly got out his vehicle and charged at police officers.
“Officer one ordered the suspect to get on the ground. The suspect turned and charged toward the officer, punching him several times. Officer two tried to get the suspect off of officer one and when officer three arrived on scene and pulled out his taser, it was ineffective.
“The suspect then charged at officer three and punched him before running and charging at officer one again. Officer one then fired a single round but the suspect continued and tackled the officer, strangling him and began punching him again. Officer two then fired three rounds at the suspect who fell to the ground,” Ballard said.
She said the officers administered first aid before Myeni was transported to the hospital in a critical condition and that all three officers were also treated for multiple injuries, with one being admitted to hospital.
Yesterday, police released a video of the incident from a body worn camera of one of the officers. A woman in tears is seen pointing out Myeni to officers while he sits in his car before he exits and walks toward officers. A scuffle ensues and the first shot is fired followed by screaming, then three more shots.
Prior to leaving the country, Myeni played for the Durban Jaguars, a rugby club that he joined after high school where he played as a flank or lock for the team.
His family yesterday was not ready to speak as they were yet to appoint a spokesperson.
Onwhinne Hindley, vice-chairperson of the Jaguars, said the club was devastated after losing their “brother”.
"They say rugby is a hooligan's game played by gentlemen and Lindani epitomised the saying. He was a great guy and extremely respectful.
“We are a family and the entire club is in mourning. This is the sixth club member to die since the onset of Covid-19,” he said.
Hindley said they learnt in the early hours of the morning that Myeni was killed.
“There was a message in the club group and we didn't want to believe it and I just keep watching the news, surfing between the channels but between 6-7am it was all confirmed.
“We are all suspicious and angry about how he died. Police in the US have carte blanche to kill, a dead man tells no lies. They don't ask questions, why did they move to kill him instead of arrest and question? Was it because he was a black man? The black community in the US live in a state of fear and this is why.”
Thomas Chilcott, chairperson of the Empangeni Rugby Football Club, said the president, committee, members, players and supporters wish to convey their deepest condolences to the wife, children and extended family of their former player, Myeni.
Nkululeko Ngubane, KZN EFF spokesperson and neighbour of the Myenis, expressed his frustration at the increasing deaths of black people at the hands of white police in the US.
He said it was infuriating to note that the US continued with applying racism on black people by continuously stereotyping them as possessing criminal elements.
“While there have since been many versions to the story, we are also aware that while Myeni might not have had a criminal record, he had been arrested more than three times which we know was done on the basis of his skin colour,” said Ngubane.
“We therefore call upon the Department of Internal Relations to intervene by making sure that justice prevails as many South Africans continue to die at the hands of white extremists.”
In a social media post, Lindsay expressed her grief for her late husband, praising him for being a good father who loved his family.
“What do I tell my babies when they cry for him? He has my heart. I will never find a perfect love like him. He was indescribable. He’d grown into a noble man. Righteous but not self-righteous. Loving and wise.
“He was too good for this broken world. He was born at Queen Nandi hospital and passed at Queen Emma’s hospital. We need justice. Why are three trained officers afraid of one unarmed man? They just left me as a widow at 29 with two babies in diapers,” she wrote.
The Myeni family were still looking to appoint a spokesperson and therefore could not comment.