Interesting how Police spokesperson, Brigadier Mathapelo Peters, urged anyone in the community who has information that could assist the investigation into the murder of Nathaniel Julies to come forward. Nathaniel, a 16-year-old Down Syndrome boy who, according to community members, was gunned down by a police officer.
I kept wondering what exactly the information needed to include for them to accept it as “information that could assist the investigation?” I assumed information that supported the notion that Nathaniel was caught in a crossfire shoot-out between gangs and the cops? Despite repeated accounts of the events that took place clearly suggesting that he was intentionally shot by the police and there was no active violent gang activity taking place at the time of his shooting.
His sister Pertunia said: “My brother was out on the street, he came back home and settled in before police arrived and started flashing lights outside. My brother is disabled and he went outside, not understanding what was going on. He was then shot once by the police and when they realised he was unconscious they threw him inside their van. I don’t really know what led to the shooting because my brother could not communicate properly”. Did this not sound like information that could assist an investigation?
Why the defensive cover-up in the first place? Why did they not just keep quiet, listen, investigate and then respond, instead of trying to silence the angry voices of the community by using the gang violence in Eldos as a scapegoat for unjustified heavy-handedness i.e murder?
I spoke to Anelise van der Vyver, the mother of Annuschke, a 28-year-old girl with Down Syndrome, in the hope that she could shed some light into what Down Syndrome children are generally like. She described Annuschke as having the mentality of a Grade 3 child. When I asked her whether she thinks the police officer could possibly not have noticed that Nathaniel had down syndrome, she said, “If you see someone you can immediately see the difference between someone with and someone without a disability. There is no reason that you can not see.”
I think because the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) had not been able to come up with, and realised they probably never will find a valid reason for why the cops shot Nathaniel, they decided to go with the “same old” narrative in just another gang-ridden Coloured community. Yes, children and other community members have been caught in crossfire before, but not once did the community come out and try to defend the gang activity or put the blame of those senseless killings on someone else.
This, however, is not the issue at hand, it never should have come up in relation to Nathaniel’s murder. The issue here is that a disabled 16-year-old with Down Syndrome was shot and killed by police. This was never about the deep-rooted gang violence or whatever else the cops were trying to use to distract us. Yes, we saw right through you.
I acknowledge that we cannot completely generalise the behaviours of children with down syndrome because they too have their own personalities, so I spoke to a teacher with 28 years experience of working with down syndrome children on an international and national level; she said, “People with down syndrome (not all of them) but a large number of them, are very inquisitive, they like to observe, they don’t understand the danger of things, it would be very difficult to remove them from a situation that they are adamant about seeing.”
That made me wonder even more, what really transpired between the cops and Nathaniel? Did they misinterpret his curiosity or his persistence for some violent threatening behaviour? Did they just see him as a crazy person? If they did, did this warrant them taking his life? I can’t see how it would have.
“Loveable, very loveable, she will go the extra mile for you – as long as it suits her,” Anelise said about her daughter. With tears welling up in her eyes, she continued “they are children from heaven (ek huil sommer) kyk, hulle het hulle stront but I wouldn’t change it.”
It’s a sad day when anyone gets killed. It’s an even sadder day when the person who gets killed quite possibly didn’t have the mental capacity to interpret the cop pointing the gun at him as a threat.
Even if Nathaniel survived he would not be able to tell us what really happened. What we need is for the officer who pulled the trigger, to tell the truth. In him telling the truth this may serve as a means to educate others and prevent the insensible killing of someone else who falls outside the constraints of what you’re familiar with.
I hope the arrests of the two officers connected to this case will lead to real consequences and not just a slap on the wrist suspension or time-out in the naughty corner. Other officers need to learn from what happens to them, that South Africans will not stand for police brutality to become yet another pandemic we need to be subjected to.
South Africans deserve better, people with Down Syndrome deserve better, Coloured people in Eldos deserve better. Nathaniel Julius DID NOT DESERVE TO DIE. End of story.
*These are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Vannie Kaap News.