Rifle jammed in teen shooting, court told

2012-08-22 20:17

Johannesburg - The R-5 rifle that killed Soweto teenager Thato Mokoka probably stopped firing because a single bullet got stuck, a ballistic expert testified on Wednesday.

Warrant Officer Eugene Lurie told the South Gauteng High Court he extracted the bullet from the rifle when he examined it.

"If that bullet hadn't got stuck, the gun would have continued firing until the magazine was emptied, or until the handler removed his finger from the trigger."

Lurie was testifying in the trial of student Constable Sipho Mbatha, who is accused of shooting Mokoka, 16, while he lay on his stomach outside his grandmother's house in Bramfischerville, Soweto, during a police raid on February 14.

Not handled correctly

Lurie agreed with an earlier witness, Warrant Officer Lewis Matlala, who said the rifle was not handled correctly.

"The distance between the shots also shows that there was no particular target," testified Matlala, who is responsible for training police officers.

Matlala was shown pictures of the teenager's bullet wounds. He said an uncontrolled shooting came about when the firearm was not properly gripped, when there was no sight alignment, or the handler was not breathing properly while firing.

Matlala said it was possible the shots fired were not directly aimed at Mokoka.

Judge Kathleen Satchwell said she would probably disregard Matlala's opinion as he was not at the scene to confirm that this was the case.

Matlala told the court Mbatha was a competent student who had got full marks in a shooting test.

'Accidentally went off'

Asked about police training, Matlala said officers were taught to always operate in pairs, so one could provide cover for the other.

In earlier proceedings, the court was told Mbatha had been left alone with Mokoka while other officers raided the shack where he had been sitting with friends.

"Those officers were wrong," said Matlala.

Police went to the Mokoka residence with two boys and two women who had alleged the teenager was part of a gang that had been terrorising residents. He was also accused of owning a firearm.

In earlier proceedings, a friend of Mokoka's said the teen was part of a group called the Boys with Advices (sic), but denied it had terrorised the community. The gun police were searching for was not found.

Mbatha has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge. He claims his rifle accidentally went off when he bent over to search Mokoka.

The trial continues on Thursday.

  • kyle.minnaar - 2012-08-22 20:24

    Finally.. One race! For once people cant blame this on apartheid.

      julie.j.vanrensburg - 2012-08-23 05:38

      @Kyle, somehow 'they' WILL find an excuse to blame apartheid - even if saying that firearms were 'an apartheid' (white) invention... Here in S.A. no one takes blame for any wrongdoing - it is always, but ALWAYS someone else's fault - never one's own... It's called the "BLAME-GAME."

  • nicholas.graan - 2012-08-22 20:58

    Another badly trained clown with his rifle set on automatic. Did he think he was going to war?

      wayne.abroue - 2012-08-22 22:11

      Even warring soldiers know better than keeping a round in the chamber unless you are about to actually shoot. Imagine his finger touched the trigger earlier and he took out all his entire squad..... This instructor is either a dumb ass, or this is Standard operating procedures in which case we're all screwed.

  • susanna.smit.7 - 2012-08-22 21:48

    Be strong Sipho! Thinking of you and hoping for your innocence to be proven and accepted in court.

      oom.kosie.9 - 2012-08-22 21:51

      WTF, what are you on about, surely you must be joking!

  • mantothieve.missingman - 2012-08-23 08:07

    Guns just dont go off this prick hed he's booger hook on the trigger

  • andre.cronje007 - 2012-08-23 09:26

    Some questions I would have asked. 1) Why was the weapon one-up? 2) Why was it not on safe 3) Why was it not pointed in a safe direction 4) Why was his finger on the trigger. I have also had my share of ADs and I can tell you, hardly EVER is it the weapons fault, it surely always operator fault.

      nicholas.graan - 2012-08-23 09:53

      I call them ND's, Negligent Discharges ...

      heibrin.venter - 2012-08-23 10:23

      @nicholas: Our term was SD's: stupidity discharges...

  • brian.wood.1840 - 2012-08-23 09:28

    To Wayne.Abroue - Boet you have no idea what you are talking about. "Warring soldiers always have a round in the chamber" because real war is not a video game. If you don't you'll be the one in the body bag on the silver bird to freedom.......!!!!!! What this case is all about is a poorly trained individual with an automatic weapon in his hand. It was obviously an "AD" which went horribly wrong. The questions to ask are Why are incompitent individuals even put incharge of a piece of machinary as lethal as a R5 automatic rifle? Question the selection process of having someone like this indivual handling a weapon Question the expert who supposedly passed him on his rifle training. Why was a trainee policeman at 40 plus handling a R5. This whole sad incident is indicative of what this country has come to - its abitity to accept medocrity as an accepted standard.

  • fanie.gerber1972 - 2012-08-23 13:50

    I carried an R5 through national service. During the whole period from basic training to clearing out we never had issues with loaded weapons firing themselves, and because we kept them clean they never jammed either.

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