The corpse of a suspected car thief lies in the parking lot of the Ashanti Regional Police Headquarters, a car mat with a pool of blood just feet away.
What I learned from initial whisperings around the police station was that three car snatchers were caught in Kumasi, having stolen a taxi in Accra. The vehicle was tracked using a new software, which was released by police just weeks before the incident in an attempt to reduce the increasing incidents of car theft in Ghana’s cities.
In the three hours I waited with my colleague at the station, no official police statement was issued. According to news articles the following day, the man and his two suspected co-conspirators opened fire, unprovoked, on police officers, who returned shots. The man was killed and two of the other suspects wounded. While one suspect escaped arrest, the others were taken to the police headquarters, where the body was placed in the parking lot as police waited for the Ashanti Regional Police Commander to assess the body.
One of his suspected co-assailants is guided onto the back of a police vehicle. His foot, shoeless and badly injured during the incident, leaves a trail of blood between where the police were holding him and the truck. The third assailant in custody stands in the centre of the growing crowd, tears streaming down his face just metres from the body.
“Hey, human rights!” A fellow journalist calls out at me, as we hover outside the office of the Ashanti Regional Police’s Public Relations Officer. Knowing that I work with Journalists for Human Rights he wants to know my opinion on the shooting. I tell him that since they haven’t made a statement yet, I don’t really know what led to police opening fire on the suspects.
What concerns me isn’t that a man was shot during a police chase, but that there is a body lying in the parking lot of the police station with hundreds of people casually strolling by. In the three hours we stand around waiting for someone to make an official statement the body remains lying in the lot; moved slightly when police officers with gloves do a quick examination.
Journalists and one of the police’s public relations officers snap pictures of the body. I leave my camera in my bag while at the police station. I didn’t check the papers to see if photos of the body appear the following day, but I know it’s likely to have accompanied the stories. In Ghanaian newspapers it’s common to see pictures of people who have hanged themselves, or bodies of car crash victims.
After three hours standing around the station without an official police statement, I head back to the station. Within half an hour my colleague joins me, as the crowd of journalists had dissolved, needing to get back to their respective newsrooms. When I was leaving the station the body remained in the lot, moved only slightly during the police examination. The group of journalists speculating about when a nearby pickup truck would finally transfer the body to the hospital morgue.