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Defendant narrates police brutality

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Police Director Col. MassaquoiDefendant Eric Bentuo, who is facing trial for alleged aggravated assault against Officer David Y. Frank of the Liberia National Police, has told jurors at Criminal Court “A”, the Temple of Justice in Monrovia how officers handcuffed and stepped on him to the point that he “vomited with blood.”

Eric was jointly indicted with co-defendant Howard Brooks for aggravated assault; but Presiding Judge Roosevelt Z. Willie acquitted Brooks Wednesday except defendant Bentuo that he ordered to testify.

Prosecutors claimed that Officer Frank sustained a wound measured 0.9 suture in an encounter with defendants Brooks and Bentuo; alleging that Brooks, who has been acquitted, was the one, who held him (Officer Frank) by his uniform during the scuffle, while co-defendant Bentuo stoned his head.

Testifying Wednesday, 27 May after the court refused to dismiss the indictment, defendant Bentuo said the entire episode began when he saw his little brother Howard Brooks running on his bike from the Redlight direction in Paynesville and trying to branch in towards the GSA Road Junction where he (Bentuo) was sitting on February 19 by his friend, who operates a forex bureau.

He said a man dressed in color clothes, who later said he was from the Police Support Unit of the Liberia National Police or LNP, was chasing his brother Brooks in the same direction towards GSA Road Junction on another motorbike and allegedly hit Brooks’ motorbike.

The witness claimed to have seen Brooks fell on the ground and bled from his hand. Bentuo said he walked to Brooks at this point, and in the process, the alleged PSU officer announced that Brooks was arrested “because he did not have the authority to make u-turn at the junction.”

“Then I decided asking him is that the rightful way to arrest someone while the person is bleeding on his hand? While talking, I saw two officers came on the scene. One was in full uniform, and one was in uniform trouser with T-shirt saying that we should go to the station,” said defendant Bentuo.

While on their way to the police station, he claimed that the officer, who had the bike, went ahead of them at the police station to complain about the motorcyclists’ alleged rude behavior and refusal to compromise with police whenever something happens.

Bentuo claimed that while the officers were beating and shoving Brooks on the way to the station; he (Bentuo) then decided to call one of the officers named Melvin Menwo to discuss on how they could settle the matter.

“The guy told me that I should give him $300 LD so that he could talk to his colleagues. I never hesitated because I wanted my little brother to run. I took the $300LD…” he told the court.

Following his engagement with Officer Melvin, he claimed that Officer Frank David held Howard Brooks to lift him up, and questioning him over his refusal to carry the bike to the station.

“He handcuffed Howard Brooks… So I went on the side and started calling my mom right away. Angry crowd from the both sides came when they were beating Howard Brooks profusely, someone threw rock in the group; and then the police officer Ballah said I should produce the person that threw the rock,” witness Bentuo alleged.

But he said he did not know who threw the rock “because the crowd was [huge]. He said while trying to intervene against how police officers were allegedly treating his brother Howard Brooks, he equally received severe flogging from the police to the point that he vomited “with blood” and his little sister and those who tried helping him with water were jailed.

“Frank David and the three officers left Howard Brooks; they came to me and began beating me. I vomited with blood… They wasted pepper water on my face, stepped on my stomach and put handcuff on my hands and stepped on it. No one could come to my rescue. All the motorcyclists were afraid; I was vomiting. I cried for water, and a boy who bought me water was jailed,” he added.

“My little sister that was going in the market saw me and started crying and holding my foot, they detained her; and anybody I talked to for help, the officers would put them in jail. My sister was placed behind bars because of coming to my help,” he narrated. By Winston W. Parley – Edited by Jonathan Browne

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