March 12, 2013 (JUBA) - A politician and retired Brigadier General from South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, Jal Malith Jal, is alleged to have fired live bullets at a police officer in the capital Juba on Tuesday, hitting him three times, before handing himself in to police.
The police officer, who is in a critical condition, is being treated at a hospital in Juba.
Police have not announced the result of their investigations but relatives and eyewitnesses told Sudan Tribune that the shooting was related to a dispute over a government vehicle Jal is alleged not to have returned after he was sacked last year from his position as a political advisor to the state governor Paul Malong Awan.
The shooting took place around the Central Pub in Juba town at around 3:30pm after a police officer confronted Jal about the whereabouts of the vehicle, according to eyewitnesses.
"They started exchanging words and I saw the police officer asking him to comply otherwise he would be dragged to the prison", said patron of the bar, who wished to remain anonymous. The witness said he saw the policeman reach for his gun and then heard the gunshots and saw the policeman on the floor.
Deng Ajou, a native of Northern Bahr el Ghazal who was also in the bar at the time said the incident appeared to be related to an old political dispute but said that the police officer could have handled the situation with greater care and humility.
“I was playing cards when the incident took place. It was like a joke. You could hear it really clear. It was like pow, pow, pow, pow," he said.
"While this shooting is notable for the fact that it took place inside town during a broad day light, there are some aspects of this incident that are, unfortunately, all too common," he said.
"I am saddened that a brave and well trained law enforcement officer has been injured in the line of duty. I am also saddened that this appears to be another example of a domestic situation that turned violent."
Ajou said that before the shooting, he shared a friendly discussion with Jal and others from the parking lot, adding that he "did not appear agitated."
After the shooting, police searched the area as a precaution. Streets around the area remained cordoned off on Tuesday afternoon. Officials said the area would remain closed, while repairs were made and authorities continued their investigation.
Another witness, Kuol Bol Chol, said he did not like the way police officer was talking to Jal before he was shot.
"Actually [the] police officer was the one who was asking for it. He was misbehaving before others. He was threatening Jal Malith with arrest. He gave Jal condition at gun point. I heard him asking Jal to choose between being shot or accept to go with him. So Jal was actually defending himself. He was not the first to shoot. It cannot happen a person can just start shooting the person without the cause. What I am telling you is the truth”, Chol said.
Chol also explained that procedures used were illegal and provocative for someone with Jal’s senior level military background.
“The procedures were wrong. A senior person like Jal should have been given the letter of arrest by a simple police lieutenant. Jal is a Brigadier General. He should have been sent a Brigadier General if it was someone that needed arrest. Another way was to call him in court by the court order not an order of individuals in the position of authority. I did not see the letter but I am told it was from the state authorities. And to make it worse the authorities decided to use rough officer who did not want to hear anything from anybody”, Chol told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
But a relative of the police officer, who has been identified as Angui Amuk Guot, said he was shot immediately after handing Jal the arrest warrant and asking the former political advisor what message he should give to those who ordered his arrest.
"He was shot while delivering the letter. It is really very bad. No one had expected this to happen. We did not expect Jal would shoot Angui”, a relative said Tuesday.
Jal was among the senior military officers moved from active military service and put on reserve list by a presidential decree in February.