In an emotional testimony to the media on Thursday, the grieving mother and step-father of 16-year-old Nathaniel Julius gave their version of events that took place before the fatal shot that killed him.
The boy was shot and killed in Eldorado Park on Wednesday evening, allegedly by police.
A tense standoff between police and Eldorado Park residents took place, with intense protest action starting early on Thursday morning. Demonstrators are calling for a complete overhaul of the SAPS in Eldorado Park, and accuse police of shooting Nathaniel.
Nathaniel, affectionately known as Lokkie, had Down syndrome and was in the junior class at Don Mattera school. He was a friendly child that loved to make jokes and dance.
— Liam (@liammaconi) August 27, 2020
The case has been handed over to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid). According to Smith, the family has not yet been approached by Ipid.
Detectives have visited the family, to give them the case’s docket number.
Ipid communication and marketing director Ndileka Cola told The Citizen that the investigative team is currently on the scene, but that no further information is available at present.
Nathaniel’s step-father, Clint Smith, explained that after the family finished eating dinner, around 8.30pm, Nathaniel, who was always the first to finish his food, went outside to get biscuits next door.
There were other boys playing nearby who wanted to take his biscuits, so Nathaniel ran to hide behind a truck. Smith said police then went to where Nathaniel was hiding.
Eyewitnesses told Smith that police were talking to Nathaniel, asking what he was doing there, but because he had Down syndrome, he couldn’t talk to them to explain why he was hiding.
Eyewitness accounts then point to a policeman getting out of his car, walking towards Nathaniel, and shooting him once in the chest.
“When we heard the shot here we thought it was crackers,” Smith said.
When Smith went outside to see what had happened, one of his friends ran past and told him they had shot Lokkie.
A shocked Smith then ran back inside to call his wife, and ran to the scene. During this time, a police van was seen speeding past.
“My son was already in the police van. They threw him in the back of the van.”
According to a family friend, Lizell Ponsonby, there were two police vans, one with Lokkie in it, and the other colleagues of the alleged shooter. Ponsonby said she stopped the first van to ask where they were taking Nathaniel.
A police officer told her “Bara”, and then “fire station”, which Ponsonby believes was intentionally misleading so that police had enough time to take Nathaniel to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital without the family present.
Nathaniel was taken to hospital by police, where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival.
According to Ponsonby, who spoke to the doctors at the hospital, the police officers said Nathaniel was shot in a gang fight. According to her, police simply dropped him off at the hospital and drove away.
“They’re trying to hide the fact, they’re telling people he was still alive. The doctor told me there was nothing they could do for him, and that police just dropped him off at the hospital, said he was in a gang fight, and left,” she explained.
The family is seeking justice.
“I have eight kids. He was a special child. No one will ever fill the void I have right now,” said Nathaniel’s overwrought mother, Bridget Harris.
“I’m going to miss the smiles, the greetings. Who’s going to greet us, whose going to tease us, laugh us out, make jokes and dance for us again.”
Harris said she would miss Lokkie most in the mornings, saying part of his morning routine after he woke up was to ask her: “Mommy, I want my shoes on, I want to go.”
She added: “I never knew yesterday would be the last… His plate of food was the last I saw him.”
Smith said the protesters who came out in droves were doing so in support of Lokkie.
“All those people fighting there know Lokkie. That’s why they’re fighting.”
Protests are still underway in Eldorado Park, with stun grenades and rubber bullets reportedly being used by Gauteng Public Order Police to disperse angry crowds.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters is calling for calm.
“At this stage, damage has been caused to the Eldorado Park police station building while two SAPS officers and one JMPD office have been injured.
“Four suspects have been arrested for public violence,” Peters said, adding that calm and restraint is now needed, and that the matter has been reported to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).
Ipid has confirmed it is investigating the matter.
It said in a statement that investigators struggled to access the scene as the situation has been volatile. When they ultimately managed to access it, it was “almost impossible” to conduct interviews as the community was violent.
However IPID officials managed to visit the family of the deceased person being escorted and the family liaison has been done.
Further investigation which includes acquiring further information from the police, eye witnesses, ballistics and postmortem is yet to be conducted, said Ipid.
The above information is based on an audio recording courtesy of The Citizen photographer Nigel Sibanda, who was at the scene in Eldorado Park on Thursday.