The death of a 34-year-old Zambia Air Force Flight Sergeant inside a police cell at Woodlands Police Station has left the Zambia Police Service panicking as it desperately tries to cover up the murder.
On Saturday night, Flight Sergeant Mark Nchimunya Choongwa was brutally beaten up by police officers at Woodlands Police after he was detained on a traffic offence.
He died shortly after he was thrown in police custody.
Eye witnesses have narrated that Choongwa found himself in an altercation with some officers around Cummings Bar in Nyumba Yamba after his BMW accidentally hit into a police car.
“The ZAF officer who was in civil attire apologised to this plain clothed police officer and he took full responsibility of the accident but the cop phoned his friends from Woodlands Police and started beating up the ZAF guy. They beat him up until he was weak, that is when they threw him in the police cell and the female officer who was by reception ordered the detainees to beat the ZAF guy further,” the eye witness narrated.
“The inmates refused to beat the ZAF officer and told the female officer that the person they have thrown in the cells was already dead.”
Another witnesses said Choongwa even introduced himself as a ZAF officer but that the police officers continued pounding him and accused him of being boastful because he was a ZAF officer.
One of the inmates who was inside the police cells when Choongwa was bundled in however narrated that another police officer who is a Judo trainer who was also detained started beating the ZAF officer who was weak at the time on instruction from the fellow police officers.
Moments later, Choongwa became unconscious and the police rushed him to UTH where he was pronounced dead.
Police quickly falsified the records to show the cause of death as ‘Traffic Accident.’
His wife upon realising that his phone had been switched off started for several hours managed to follow up the issue with Woodlands Police with the help of his friends.
It was at the police station that she was informed that her husband had died in road traffic accident and she went to UTH where she identified the body.
A check at the funeral house at ZAF Twin Palm found a distraught family struggling to come to terms with the tragedy.
The widow wept continuously and was uncontrollable while family Spokesman and elder brother to the deceased vowed that the perpetrators of the crime will pay.
He said his late brother was a responsible young man who assumed the role of the bread winner in the family at a young age adding that he believes the deceased was provoked by the police officers.
The BMW which the police indicate was involved in a road accident and caused Choongwa’s death was later driven to Woodlands Police Station and is now parked at the deceased’s former home in ZAF Twin Palm.
And Lusaka Province Police Commissioner Nelson Phiri has confirmed the death of Choongwa but insists that he was beaten by fellow detainees.
Mr Phiri has since announced that police will go ahead and charge the detainees with murder.
He narrated Choongwa turned violent when he was approached by police officers who went to the accident scene.
“The man died on his way to the hospital after having been beaten by fellow inmates in the cells. First of all, he caused an accident, bashed into somebody’s car. So that accident was reported at Nyumba Yanga Police Post and officers went to attend to it,” Mr Phiri narrated.
“But somehow he became violent, such that it had to take a reinforcement from Woodlands Police. He actually assaulted one of the police officers, so he had to be taken to Woodlands police station.”
Asked if the ZAF officer was in a drunken state, Mr. Phiri said he could not confirm that in the absence of a medical report.
“So he was detained for assault on police, now in the cells again he picked up a quarrel with inmates there, who descended on him and beat him up. Others called officers who were on duty. The officers rushed there and saw that he was in bad shape. They tried to rush him to the hospital and on arrival there, he was pronounced dead,” said Mr. Phiri.