Wednesday, 29th June, 2022, marked exactly a year since the police shot and killed the 58-year-old polling station organiser of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Ntoaso in the Eastern Region. On that day the police also killed the only suspect they arrested alive, handcuffed. They shot and killed him on their way to the Police Headquarters.
Two months earlier, the police had killed four young men in the community. The police say they were suspected armed robbers. A year on, there are no answers to what the community members say were extra-judicial killings by the police. In the following report, The Fourth Estate investigates the circumstances under which the police killed the six men in Ntoaso.
On April 28, 2021, William Ofori Okaiteye was selected to lead a delegation of his townsfolk of Ntoaso, a community in Nsawam Adoagyiri Municipality in the Eastern Region, to the Police Headquarters in Accra.
He went there to enquire about the killings of four of the townsmen, described by the police as armed robbers.
“Bra Ofori was someone regarded as an elder and part of the leadership of the town. Everyone knew him to be calm and gentle,” a relative, Moses Nii Nortey eulogised William Ofori Okaiteye.
When the townsfolk accused the police of feet-dragging in releasing the bodies of the deceased to their grieving families, it was the “respected” Bra Ofori who would step in to ensure the families got the bodies for burial.
But two months after this, armed balaclava-wearing policemen broke into his house at Ntoaso, dragged out the terrified, defenseless, and bleeding Bra Ofori, and pumped bullets into his body in broad daylight according to an account given by eyewitnesses.
William Ofori Okaiteye, 58 years, popularly known as Bra Ofori, was killed by the Police on June 29, 2021, and his family is yet to get closure on the gruesome incident.
Morning, mourning and four dead men.
April 27, 2021, 9am. Ntoaso:
Enoch Okaikwei Okaiteye, 28, the Mmrantehene (youth leader) of Ntoaso, was fasting in accordance with Islamic tradition. He sent his younger brother Stephen, a National Service person, to buy him a box of Lipton tea at a nearby store.
Inside Enoch’s partially completed apartment is a makeshift gym where ring gears from an old car and a bench had been repurposed into weightlifting equipment.
His three non-Muslim friends – Bismark Hammond, Kwame Halo, and Joseph aka Tampidom who usually gravitated towards their youth leader had come to visit. Bismark Hammond 32 years, in particular, was there to mount a new television set and also fix a fault on Enoch’s new motorbike.
Enoch was a land guard, his father Teteh Okaiteye, told The Fourth Estate.
Kwame Halo, 23, was also a land guard. Enoch’s younger brother, Stephen, confirmed a widely known community truth about Kwame Halo and Enoch being land guards.
Kwame hails from Amasaman, a town 15km from Nsawam. And over there, in Ntoaso, the townsfolk knew him as Game.
Teteh Okaiteye and his son, Stephen, told The Fourth Estate team that of the four men who gathered in the partially completed house, Bismark and Joseph were not land guards.
In Ntoaso, the painting of many homes is the handiwork of Joseph 23, alias Tampidom.
When residents needed to repair their mobile phones and electronic gadgets, or when a motorbike needed fixing, the go-to man was 36-year-old Bismark Hammond. With his shop at Nsawam, his house in Ntoaso, and a motorbike he owned, Bismark also ran errands for some community members.
Stephen was sitting at a popular hangout where the youth often relax. He was with a friend when he heard gunshots.
Suddenly, every electricity-powered equipment in the town went off. The transformer was shot into. Several meters away, a barrage of gunshots were heard at Enoch’s house.
“When we heard the gunshots, we ran,” Enoch’s brother, Stephen, recalled.
In the hysteria of the sporadic firing, a food (waakye) vendor was jostled out of her bed in excruciating pain. She was shot.
“I was fast asleep when I felt a sharp pain in my arm. I thought it was something that had hit me from the ceiling” the food vendor, popularly called Amaria, told The Fourth Estate.
Amaria’s house was very close to Enoch’s. And one of the bullets penetrated the rear window of Enoch’s house and entered her window, lodging itself into her arm.
“I started shouting and calling for help, but no one was around to help me,” she recalled how she threw open her door, holding her arm as blood oozed from the bullet wound.
“I ran out of the room and onto the street. The next thing I saw, I was in the hospital and a drip was on me.”
Her account was corroborated by two others – the father and brother of Enoch. The Fourth Estate found a hole and shattered louver blades in the woman’s window.
A crowd was beginning to gather in front of Enoch’s house, where the domineering presence of armed policemen had created a scene.
“Go back! Go back!” the armed police shoved to keep curiosity at a distance. Splutters of blood could be seen on the floor.
At this point, neither his father nor his brother, Stephen, knew where Enoch was. A neighbor said she saw two bodies being dragged out of Enoch’s house. But Mr. Okaiteye and his son, Stephen, preferred to believe that Enoch had escaped with his friends.
“The way the police officers surrounded the place, no one could get close. I tried to go there and the police were shouting at me,” Mr. Okaiteye, who lived two houses away, told The Fourth Estate.
“My dad wasn’t even aware that my brother was part. We were all thinking that he had escaped,” Stephen said.
According to Stephen, it took days for the town to appreciate the scale of the killings that day.
“The incident happened on Tuesday. By Wednesday, [and] Thursday, we still hadn’t heard from him.”
When the community leaders pressed the Nsawam Police for an explanation, they were referred to the Police Headquarters in Accra.
The onus fell on Bra Ofori, the head of the Okaiteye family, who was also Enoch’s uncle, to go to Accra for answers. They knew two people were dead, but they did not know exactly who they were.
“Bra Ofori went to the Police morgue with others to check. When they got there, he said the police had killed two people, but the police replied that they were rather four,” Stephen stated.
According to Stephen, Bra Ofori and his delegation were made to pay an undisclosed amount of money to be allowed inside the morgue to identify the bodies.
A shock awaited them.
“They were shown the bodies, and all the four were people who were known including my brother,” Stephen dammed in his tears.
The three others—Kwame Halo, Bismark Hammond, and Joseph– were in Enoch’s house that Tuesday.
The tragedy hit home hard.
“I was returning home from his place when I met my sister coming out of her room. She hugged me, and I don’t know what happened. But she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. She was brought back later in the evening,” Stephen recalled.
Bismark’s grandmother, Naomi Okaa Dewoana, joined in the mourning.
“He is my only grandson. Now, who will run errands for me? Look at me, look at my age. I am a retired prisons officer. Who will go and work so that I get my daily bread? … Justice must be served!” she lamented to The Fourth Estate.
In an atmosphere of fear and panic, Enoch’s wife left Ntoaso with their five-year-old daughter.
“Most of us are sleeping in town [Nsawam]. We are afraid of being arrested when we sleep at home” a young man who spoke to The Fourth Estate on condition of anonymity said. His friends corroborated his claim.
Enoch’s room was ransacked by the police during the raid and shooting. According to Stephen, the police took everything in Enoch’s room including his television set, a home theatre system and a brand-new motorbike Enoch had bought a month earlier.
According to Mr. Okaiteye and his son Stephen, the motorbike which cost GHC 19,000 was seen being ridden by some ununiformed policemen at the Police Headquarters in Accra.
“Oh, when we went to the Police Headquarters we saw some of the policemen riding Enoch’s motorbike,” Mr. Okaiteye recalled.
A year after the operation, the police showed The Fourth Estate team the said motorbike in addition to two others the police said were seized in the first operation. The motorbike was a month old when the police raided the community, killed its owner, and seized it, but the bike The Fourth Estate team saw looked old, broken, and patched in many parts. The labels on the other two motorbikes seized from the crime that day had dates they were presented as exhibits, but Enoch’s motorbike did not have any date on it. It looked like a bike that had been used within the period.
A security analyst and professor of security studies at the Kofi Annan Peace Keeping Training Centre, Professor Kwesi Aning, could not understand why some personnel of the Ghana Police service could use seized items without any recourse to the law.
According to him, “an institution that in the performance of its duties seizes the property even of criminals is not enjoined by law to individually use those properties.”
The second coming of death
At about 4 p.m. on June 28, 2021, drama was unfolding in front of Bra Ofori’s house.
“Open the door! Open the door!… we are counting to three. If you don’t open the door, we will fire the place!”, a nephew of Bra Ofori who was spying on the event through the window of his room together with his sister heard do-or-die orders from armed policemen.
“The police tried to make him open the door, but he didn’t,” 25 years old Samuel Addo recalled the final few minutes of his uncle.
A hail of bullets riddled the wooden door, and the kitchen and living room windows. Within seconds, the noisy bullets, louder than the man’s terrified screams, ceased. And the man who rushed into his room bare-chested and alive was dragged out in a pool of blood half dead, half begging, according to the eye-witness.
A number of policemen pointed their guns at close range and shot Bra Ofori, who was the polling station organiser for Ntoaso.
“After they dragged him out of the room, they were still shooting at him on the ground,” Samuel recalled. An account corroborated by two others.
That afternoon had been typically serene until gunshots shattered the peace. With their hearts pounding, the inhabitants brought all activities to an abrupt end.
“Gunshots again? Eii today too?” 42-year-old Moses Nii Nortey, a family member of Bra Ofori recalled asking. He exchanged bewildered looks with his colleague labourers who were working on their church building in the town.
Sensing danger, Bra Ofori dashed into his room. The April 27 killings might have taught him that these armed policemen mean business.
“Some of the boys in the town are land guards and the police came to kill some of them some time ago,” Mr. Okaiteye recounted the killings of April 27, “so the police were looking for the rest of the boys.”
One of them, the community members said, is Nii Anang, a known land guard. (In one of the visits to Ntoaso, some members of the community showed The Fourth Estate Nii Anang, whom they say visited terror on community members who crossed his path.)
Minutes later, armed policemen were hot on Nii Anang’s heels. He reportedly shot at the police, and injured one in the hand, one of the community leaders told The Fourth Estate.
Nii Anang then initiated a curve towards Bra Ofori’s apartment and escaped.
The police thought he had entered the apartment. When they heard there was someone in the apartment, they believed it was their suspect, Nii Anang. They then massed up in front of Bra Ofori’s house.
This was why they were ordering him to come out at the count of three.
“He was afraid. He thought if he opened the door, they would kill him. So, when they asked him to open the door, he did not believe that if he opened the door and they realise he was not the one, they might leave him,” Mr. Teteh Okaiteye said.
“One of the bullets caught him so he started shouting in the room,” Mr. Teteh Okaiteye said.
“We started shivering with fear in the room, with many questions running through our minds whether we would be the next in line to be shot by these policemen,” Samuel narrated.
Bra Ofori, an armed robber or an innocent civilian?
On June 30, 2021, a tweet from Bra Ofori’s daughter Judith Naa Okaiteye with the Twitter @realnaajudith, got a section of social media talking. She had accused some “trigger-happy hoodlums parading as Ghana police officers” of killing her father at home.
🌡29th June, 2021 3pm💔 trigger-happy hoodlums parading as Ghana police officers went to my dad's house, shot & killed him because he had video evidence on his phone on the killing of 4 guys by the police 2months ago!!! I am dumbfounded!WtF is going on in 🇬🇭 pic.twitter.com/Wz4kjVyigl
— naajudith🥶🇬🇭📚🏀🦋🦋🌠🎖❤ (@realnaajudith) June 30, 2021
At this point, she was prepared to believe that the armed men who killed her father were not from the police even though a branded vehicle of Operation Calm Life was seen in town conveying the men in police uniforms who stormed the town.
Some social media users accused her of trying to cause disaffection for the police. Others said she was creating fake news.
A day later, the Ghana Police Service tweeted a response to Judith, confirming that indeed, their men were responsible for the attack that fateful day.
These pictures show a place similar to the place at Ntoaso in the Eastern region where police arrested armed robbers and retrieved several arms and ammunition including about 3000 AK 47 ammunition. This was in the News from the police briefing at the CID on 30th June 2021. https://t.co/nGkootMPD3
— Ghana Police Service (@GhPoliceService) July 1, 2021
The Police tweeted again that Judith’s father was an armed robber who shot back at the Police.
The man who shot one of the officers was also shot by the Police. Does that mean your father was the armed robber who was shot by police? You @realnaajudith should answer questions from the police.
— Ghana Police Service (@GhPoliceService) July 1, 2021
The Daily Guide newspaper published a story indicating that Judith was wanted by the police because of a tweet regarding her father’s death. Other media houses followed suit, reporting the same.
“I received a report that UTV was interviewing one Police officer and the man said I was in their custody and they were questioning me. I was surprised. I don’t know whether they did that for formality’s sake, for people to think that they were on the case, ” Judith Okaiteye told The Fourth Estate.
At a press briefing at the Police Headquarters, the Director-General of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), COP Isaac Ken Yeboah, referred to the incident at Ntoaso.
“Yesterday, as part of the security measures adopted by the Police service under the new Anti-Armed Robbery Task Force strategy to curb robberies and other violent crimes in the country, intelligence from a source had indicated that some armed robbers were in possession of arms and ammunitions and had concealed them in Ntoaso, a town in Eastern Region,” he said.
“In response to the intelligence gathered, the team from the National Operations Directorate, Surveillance Unit, and other Combat Patrol Teams were dispatched to the location to retrieve the said weapons. On reaching the location, the suspected robbers took to their heels upon seeing the police,” the head of the police CID said.
He went on, “The team began a search at the premises and in the process, one of the suspected armed robbers, yet to be identified who was hiding in the nearby room opened fire on the police and hit the hand of one of our officers, injuring his two fingers in the process. The police officer is on admission at the Police hospital at the moment. The Police also responded accordingly and gunned down the suspected robber while the other escaped arrest.”
The community members told The Fourth Estate that Nii Anang was the man the police said had escaped arrest. They said he was the one who had shot at the police while escaping and the one the police thought was hiding in Bra Ofori’s room.
From the account of witnesses who spoke to The Fourth Estate, the suspect who shot at the police was different from the one the police shot and killed. While Nii Anang allegedly shot at the police, it was actually Bra Ofori that the police shot and killed, reportedly mistaking him for Nii Anang.
Professor Kwesi Aning finds it difficult to understand how an armed robber hiding in a room from the police would be the first to open fire on the police passing by that room.
“Except that armed robber is a kamikaze armed robber, that he has committed some crimes, already disbursed the profit that has come out of that crime, and decides that he want to go down in a hail of bullets and become a hero, some Robin hood type of hero,” Professor Aning said.
“But I don’t think that is what happened in this case,” he added.
On two occasions at the Police Headquarters in Accra, The Fourth Estate’s reporters heard two policemen express shock at the official police position that Bra Ofori was an armed robber.
COP Ken Yeboah also said on the day Bra Ofori was killed, the police killed the only suspect captured alive on the way to Accra.
He claimed the suspect tried snatching a weapon of one of the police in the bucket of the pick-up vehicle. And the police shot and killed him.
The community members of Ntoaso said the said suspect was handcuffed and put in the police vehicle. They say the handcuffed suspect could not pose so much danger in a moving vehicle to warrant his killing.
They believe the police carried out extra-judicial killings of the four in April, Bra Ofori and the other suspect they captured alive and killed on the way to Accra from Ntoaso.
The police did not respond to The Fourth Estate’s request for answers for ten months. When the trailer of this documentary aired, the police administration offered an explanation.
The administration insisted that the account of the CID Director-General was accurate. The Deputy Director-General of the CID told the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Estate that the police killed four in the operation and two in the second.
They confirmed the account of the community members that the only suspect who was taken alive was handcuffed before being put in the police vehicle. They, however, said he tried snatching an AK47 rifle from one of the policemen in the vehicle and that officer shot him dead.
They could not say how many policemen were in that vehicle.
They maintained that Bra Ofori, like the four men killed in the first operation, was a suspected armed robber who first shot at the police.
Previous incidents and Investigation
This is not the first time the police have killed suspected criminals in such suspicious circumstances.
In 2018, the police shot and killed seven Zongo youth in Manso Nkwanta in the Ashanti Region and displayed weapons allegedly used by the robbers to engage the police in a shootout.
The police claimed that the seven men were armed robbers who were killed during a gunfire exchange with the police, a claim the Zongo community contested.
A seven-member committee led by Justice Obeng Deawuo probed the killings and reported that there was no evidence that the seven were armed robbers, nor was there an exchange of gunfire.
The police administration interdicted 21personnel who took part in the operation but, they are yet to face the law.
The Fourth Estate earlier captured the stories of similar victims in the story killed By The Bullet: Fatal Police, military brutality victims since 2017.
The Assembly Member for Ntoaso, Isaac Odonkor, recalled that, together with Bra Ofori, they were working with the police to release the bodies of the four young men killed on April 27. Some of these police officers who had met Bra Ofori expressed shock when they were told that the 58-year-old man was an armed robber.
According to his family, when Bra Ofori was not in Accra taking care of his frail father or was not on his farm in Ntoaso, he was negotiating the price of family lands with interested buyers.
The said lands are a subject of litigation involving some prominent political figures and chiefs in the Eastern Region. Those were the lands two of the four young men killed in the first operation were protecting.
When he was not spending time with his family, he was engaged in another of his pastime – local NPP politics.
“My brother is a part of the NPP Executives in the town. The Adoagyiri Ntoaso NPP executives know Bra Ofori very well. The NPP chairman here is called Chairman Stone. He knows Bra Ofori. He has meetings with them every time.”
“Yeah. Bra Ofori was a member of the NPP. He was a polling station organiser of the party here in Ntoaso. We know him here. Even our member of Parliament [Frank Annoh-Dompreh] knows him. The Municipal Chief Executive knows him. The party hierarchy in Nsawam here knows him because he is active and supportive in everything we do here,” Wisdom Akoto, the NPP polling station chairman at Ntoaso stated.
Frank Annoh-Dompreh described Bra Ofori as “a decent man” and said he did not know him as an armed robber.
Bra Ofori was buried in the same grave with his father, who died shortly after the police killed his son.