GEORGE Nkencho, 27, was battling bouts of depression among other mental health issues when policemen of Irish Blanchadstone Gardaí Armed Support Unit, ASU shot him dead in front of his house.
December 30, 2020, Nkencho got involved in a physical altercation with the store manager of a Spar shop in Hartford, Ireland before drawing a knife to fend off his attacker, according to media reports.
When the police arrived at the scene, Nkencho was not restrained immediately, they rather followed him closely through the streets of Hartstown housing estates until he reached his home at Manorfield, Clonee, on the Dublin-Meath border.
The video clips taken on a mobile phone show parts of Nkencho’s route across a green lawn, as he was closely followed by two Gardaí cars which include, a local Gardaí patrol car with two unarmed members and the other a crime task force car, also with two unarmed Gardaí.
He later knocked on his front door which was answered by his sister Gloria who revealed in an interview that she was ordered to get inside after she told them from the hallway that her brother had “mental problems”.
In a statement by the Gardaí, they stated that Nkencho was about to enter the house and was likely to take hostages. In a bid to stop Nkencho, he was pepper-sprayed which was unsuccessful while another ASU member fired a taser at him twice to make him drop the knife while he was raising his voice.
The police authorities also said Nkencho threatened the officers with a knife before they implemented a graduated response, using less-than-lethal weapons which were unsuccessful before the shots were fired.
Nkencho’s three siblings said they were on the other side of the hall door in the house paralysed with fear when they heard the shots that killed their brother.
“My siblings and I have witnessed the most traumatic experience of our lives as our brother was shot in front of us,” Gloria said in an interview.
Nkencho’s killing has attracted condemnations and protests across Ireland and Nigeria with a petition launched online to seek justice for him which has garnered over 7,000 signatures.
Post mortem reveals new details
The Irish-African community was devastated by the news of Nkencho’s death as a peaceful protest followed immediately after the shooting, the protesters gathered at a police barricade close to Nkencho’s house to air their grievances.
The next day, protesters also gathered outside Blanchardstown Gardaí station with placards before marching through the city’s shopping centre and to the Eurospar where Nkencho had assaulted the manager.
An investigation into the death of Nkencho has been commenced by Gardaí Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), an independent statutory body set up in 2007 to provide efficient, fair and independent oversight of policing in Ireland.
According to a post mortem documents, obtained by The ICIR from sources close to the family reveals that the interim cause of death was from two gunshot wounds to vital organs. However, it also revealed that a total of six shots were fired with five shots penetrating his torso (body) with another passing through his arm.
“Injuries noted at the postmortem examination were that it appears that six shots were aimed at the central mass [torso] and of those shots, one went through George’s arm and did not go into his chest,” a section of the postmortem result reads.
Also being examined by GSOC in its investigation is the taser deployed during the incident as advised the details of the taser will provide further information on that taser at the time of deployment.
Phelim O’Neill, the lawyer representing Nkencho’s family has expressed satisfaction with the pace of the investigation saying it has been given the status of a criminal investigation by GSOC.
“It is now a real and distinct possibility that on the conclusion of the GSOC investigation that members of An Gardaí Siochana will be criminally prosecuted for their actions in shooting George Nkencho to death,” he said.
However, O’Neill raised some questions which the GSOC were yet to provide answers with regards the investigation into Nkencho’s death.
He requested GSOC to confirm the number of gardai in attendance at the scene and the total shots while confirming how the postmortem examination could possibly account for the aim taken by the officers.
Racial tensions worsen
On April 2nd, 2010, Nigerian born Irish citizen Toyosi Shittabey was stabbed to death in Tyrrellstown after an argument with some teenagers who had called Shittabey and his group by racial slurs by their alleged attackers.
The incident has been described as one of Ireland’s major racist murders involving the African – Irish community.
Toyosi and Nkencho were both friends and teammates at Insaka Football Club in the North Dublin Schoolboy League in 2010. The team was assembled together to give black youths in west Dublin, a safe place to gather, work on their football skills and possibly get picked up by top-tier clubs.
They were both very young to play for the senior team so they got involved in the coaching sessions and also featured in the training sessions. However, Nkencho’s slide in his mental health also started after the death of his Toyosi in 2010, as he became socially withdrawn.
In a 13-second video of the shooting, captured by a dog walker which has been widely circulated on social media. Reactions trailing the video online reveals two sides of the divide as some support the gardaí saying they had to defend themselves while others say the gardaí used excessive force.
A Twitter user with the name Brandon Chung in his tweet stated that White Irish tweeps got quiet about racism and Nkencho’s incident.
“(White) Irish twitter got quiet about racism and George Nkencho real quick.” he tweeted.
“How effective the far right were in whipping up racism in the aftermath of the killing of George Nkencho & the challenges it created for the Left. They’ll deploy what they learned about the effect of racism when it suits them. It’s who they are,” the tweet read.
Protesters have also been riled up by the false information spread by far-right and racist social media accounts claiming Nkencho had a violent criminal history while some have expressed joy that Nkencho had been killed.
#GeorgeNkencho An Armed Criminal with a knife tries to stab and kill a Garda. This is text book definition of when lethal force should be used. This has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the fact that criminal lunged to kill a Garda pic.twitter.com/XOP1mzHPYS
— Was-mark (@markbikes94) December 30, 2020
Nkencho’s family has also received “hate letters” containing racist and offensive language and making reference to false accusations circulating on social media about a non – existing acts of a crime involving the deceased 27-year-old.
The sender stated they were “glad” Nkencho was dead and tells the family to get out of Clonee as sources close to the family say the letter had caused them “considerable added distress”.
Data obtained from the 2019 Gardaí Annual Report shows that the Gardaí’s ASU was assigned 55 cases involving Hostage/Barricade/Suicide (HBS) type incidents out of a total of 98 cases which occurred that year which involved individuals posing a serious threat to either themselves or others or both.
With the involvement of the ASU, it shows that 69 per cent of HBS incidents were related to subjects suffering from mental health challenges while 18 per cent of these cases were criminal related incidents.
Cases of fatal shootings recorded by the Gardaí is put at six in the last 22 years. In 2019, the ASU was involved in 4,390 incidents described as higher risk spontaneous which was an 18 per cent rise from 2018.
Though, there was a reduction in hate crime in 2019, dropping from 27 incidents per month in 2018 to 21 incidents in 2019, while indicating that hate crimes were potentially underreported and
an increase is seen as a “desirable correction”.
Tributes for Nkencho
At the memorial for Nkencho which was held near his home in west Dublin on Sunday where family and friends gathered to remember him and release balloons in the colours of his favourite football team, Manchester United.
He was described as a “beautiful guy” and a “great friend, brother and son” who was “kind”.
Off the pitch, Nkencho whose stage name was Young G was also involved in making hip-hop music at his local Youthreach centre and made performances depicting the issues they faced in their daily life.
After a minute’s silence was held in his memory, speeches were made and his name was read out 21 times.
George’s brother Emmanuel who spoke at the event explained the similarities between him and his deceased elder brother which reflected the bond that existed while he was alive.
“We loved the same stuff, the same team. We played the same position, the same music.
“It’s hard to see him go like that. I wish that day had played out a different scenario than what I witnessed. I personally think there are many other ways that the scenario could have played out, I wish it did,” he said.
The family are demanding for answers about the circumstances surrounding Nkencho’s death, as protesters are still holding protests outside Gardaí stations.