KZN rugby community, friends in disbelief after 'gentle' South African man killed by US police

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Linda Myeni.
Linda Myeni.
  • KwaZulu-Natal born Linda Myeni, 29, was shot dead by Honolulu police in Hawaii at 20:10 on Wednesday during a suspected home burglary.
  • Honolulu Police Department Police Chief Susan Ballard revealed that the unarmed Myeni was fatally shot after he is alleged to have attacked and wounded police.
  • Back home in KwaZulu-Natal his friends and former managers at his ex-rugby team Jaguars are disputing the circumstances, saying he was too gentle to have attacked the police.  

"No ways, that was not his character. He would have never done that; he was such a gentle person and was very disciplined."

This was how friends, former rugby managers and ex-teammates of Linda Myeni reacted to reports that the Kwa-Zulu Natal-born man had been shot dead by US police in Hawaii because he allegedly attacked police officers first.

"He would open a packet of chips and offer it to four to five guys before he would take for himself," recalled Jaguars rugby club vice-chairman Onwhinne Hindley. 

"What they [police] are talking about is absolute bullshit," added Hindley.

His words were echoed by club chairman Clinton Isaacs who said he knew Myeni briefly during his days of scouting talent for the Sharks before joining the Jaguars two years ago.  

Isaacs said:

What a great character. Logically, I can't see [a] real reason he would have done what he is being accused of, considering his good character, especially someone with two small children. He was a disciplined youngster who had absolute respect for his senior teammates.

Myeni, a father of two and husband to a US citizen, was shot dead by Honolulu police on Wednesday.

Hawaii News Now reported that the shooting happened about 20:10 on Wednesday after police officers responded to a report of a burglary in progress at a Nuuanu home. 

The person who called 911 identified a man sitting in a vehicle nearby as Myeni and later told police that he had been exhibiting strange behaviour.

Hawaii News Now said Honolulu Police Department Police Chief Susan Ballard said three police officers tried non-lethal force first, including deploying a Taser, before fatally shooting "a 29-year-old suspect multiple times in Nuuanu on Wednesday night who was repeatedly punching them".

READ | SA man shot and killed by cops in Hawaii - reports

Myeni was unarmed and had no criminal record. When Ballard was asked whether the suspect reached for or grabbed one of the officers' guns, she said that was still under investigation.

On Thursday, Ballard defended the officers' actions, saying they were all injured during the incident.

She said one of the police officers, the first on the scene, sustained multiple facial fractures and a concussion. He was last listed in a stable condition, but remained hospitalised, Ballard said.

On Thursday, his wife Lindsay spoke to HawaiiNewsNow, saying the incident could have been caused by cultural differences between Myeni and locals. "He's the most gentle person... and the best father," she told the news outlet.

Lindsay reportedly denied that Lindani committed a burglary, saying the family had money, and told KHON2 she had no idea why he was at the house in question.

Back home in KwaZulu-Natal, Myeni's friends told News24 that the circumstances surrounding Myeni's death did not add up. 

During a telephonic interview with News24, Hindley said Myeni was a gentle soul on and off the pitch.

"This youngster really was such a good person. His character was calm. When he came to the club, one could not piece together what type of a person he was until he started playing.

"He started gelling nicely with teammates and was a very jovial and jokey person. He had a lot of respect for senior players and management. Everybody liked the way he played and carried himself on and off the pitch," added Hindley.

Commenting about the reported circumstances of Myeni's death, Hindley said: 

To me that is not like him, a sensible youngster like that? I do not believe that he attacked the police and everyone in the club is talking about this. We just don't believe it. Absolutely no ways he attacked the police. I don't think so.

Another person who knew Myeni, Juan Noel, said: "He was a humble and gentle guy who loved life, what he was doing and his family."

Myeni played as a lock and flank for the Jaguars between 2017 and 2018 - Noel was the vice-chairman at the club.

Myeni's friend Sihle Chief Mkhonza recalled how he first met him - playing alongside each other for the KZN provincial rugby side's under 13s.

The two went on to play against each other for various clubs after school.

"We shared a mutual respect. He was a very peaceful and loving person; he just embraced contentment and serenity. He was just a fine gentlemen. He would lead everyone in song before and after the match."

Myeni was described as a versatile player.

His parents could not be reached for comment. 

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