The man killed in a shootout with a security officer on Thursday afternoon is a “notorious criminal”, the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) has said.
The police issued a statement hours after the incident saying that investigations were ongoing to ascertain the full picture of what occurred along Lightfoot Boston Street in Freetown.
The statement issued by the Media and Public Relations Department of the SLP identified the man as Foday Alieu, known popularly as ‘Big Fish,’ describing him as a “violent thug.”
According to the statement, Mr Alieu grabbed the rifle of a female police officer attached to the headquarters of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) on Charlotte Street and started shooting at random.
“In spite of efforts to professionally persuade the errant Alieu to drop the weapon and stop his unlawful and dangerous shooting action, he continued the random gun firing spree,” the police said, noting that he was later confronted by a military officer who also failed to persuade him to drop the weapon.
“At this juncture, because Foday Alieu posed a legitimate threat to public safety…he was shot at and eventually neutralized by the brave military officer,” the police statement added.
Alieu’s remains are said to have been taken to the morgue.
Part of the drama was captured on video by witnesses, who later shared footages of it on social media showing the gunman walking along the almost empty street of a usually business center with the gun and later engaging the armed military officer.
In one scene, according to a footage shared on facebook, he is seen aiming the gun at the officer. After a moment of gun firing, the motionless body of the gunman was seen lying on the ground.
Some witnesses said the gunman had shot first at the military officer, who returned fire, dropping him down in the process.
According to the police, a female passerby sustained a head injury from the bullet of the gunman. But the injury was described as non-life-threatening.
Meanwhile, the unidentified soldier who engaged the gunman has received praises from Sierra Leoneans on and offline for his bravery in preventing what many felt could have ended in a bloodbath without his intervention.
Some are calling for some form of state recognition for him.