Frank Mugala’s death was a physical disruption of the spinal cord in the neck – Pathologist

PROCEEDINGS of inquest into the death of 14-year-old Frank Mugala have been concluded after a forensic pathologist told the coroner’s court that the cause of his death was a physical disruption of the spinal cord in the neck which was triggered by a gunshot on the left side of his back.

Dr Luchenga Muchelenganga told corona Stanford Ngobola that Mugala’ death was a homicide as he did not suffer from any disease.

Mugala, who was a grade eight pupil at Chazanga Primary School, was shot dead by the police on his way home from school on February 13, 2021 whilst dispersing residents who were protesting over the chemical gassing incidents of homes and schools which rocked the country last year.

This was after word went round that management at Chazanga Primary School was shielding culprits behind the gassing.

Dr Muchelenganga explained that he conducted an external examination on the corpse and he noticed a wound on the back, which was oval in shape and another wound in the neck.

He said he conducted an autopsy and when he dissected the body, he discovered that one of the lungs had collapsed due to perforation.

“Among the things that were peculiar is that the gunshot was not round. It was elitical in shape and that made me come to the conclusion that the bullet might have hit an intermediate object before landing on the deceased’s body,” Dr Muchelenganga explained.

“The bullet penetrated the lung and hit the spinal code and exited at the right side of the neck. The path direction of the bullet was from left to right or down going up. This happens if someone is bending over or when they lie down.”

He said his opinion was that the cause of death was a gunshot on the back which disrupted the cervical spine.

“The manner of death is a homicide, the gunshot wound is atypical suggestive of a ricochet bullet. The gunshot was incapacitation immediately,” said Dr Muchelenganga.

During cross-examination by Mugala’s family, Dr Muchelenganga was asked if he found any bullet fragments in the juvenile’s body but he denied.

Asked if the body was tampered with before he conducted postmortem, the pathologist responded in the negative.

Among the seven witnesses who testified in the matter was the aunty of the deceased, Blessings Hara, who witnessed the incident.

Hara narrated that around 16:00 whilst she was home, her father told her that he heard gunshots from the direction of Chazanga Primary School.

She said her father asked her to go and check on her sister at her saloon which was near the school as well as on her nephew, Frank, at Chazanga Primary School.

“When I reached at Chazanga Primary School, I found a lot of people standing by the road side near the school and five motor vehicles which were occupied by armed police officers,” Hara said.

She said the vehicles were not labeled Zambia Police, and headed towards Kabanana compound.

Hara told the coroner’s court that she went to the school ground where there were school children and before she could reach, she saw children running towards the main road.

“My nephew (Frank) was among the group of children running towards the road. I overheard members of the community shouting police officers have come and that’s how I started to run and crossed the road whilst my nephew followed behind,” Hara narrated.

“After I crossed the road and sought refuge behind the shop situated on the road side, whilst I was standing behind the shop, I saw a Land Cruiser white in colour and police officers started to shoot towards the shop where people had run to for safety. I saw my nephew staggering whilst approaching the shop with his white school shirt soiled with blood and before he could reach the shop, he collapsed.

Hara said she ran to her nephew and noticed that he had been shot by the police and she shouted for help.

She said she went in the school premises to inform management and make a phone call to her father to inform him about the incident and whilst she was inside, police fired tear gas.

“When I came out I found my nephew had been taken by a police vehicle,” said Hara.

Coroner Ngobola is expected to deliver his verdict on May 24.

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