On Wednesday night, 26 August 2020, Nathaniel “Lockie” Julies did something he had done hundreds of times before. After eating dinner, he walked out of his family’s Eldorado Park home and stood at the gate with a packet of biscuits. He would not return.
The next time his father would see him, he would be lying on a hospital gurney at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, with gunshot wounds to his chest that were allegedly inflicted by a policeman who could not understand what the teenager, who had down syndrome, was trying to say.
Now, the community of Eldorado Park wants answers and on Thursday, they took to the streets in protest, stoning police vehicles and threatening to burn down the police station.
Nathaniel’s family also want justice.
On the night of the shooting, Nathaniel, who was well known in the area, left the house after dinner to eat a packet of biscuits his dad had given him. Biscuits were his favourite treat.
“There is a spaza shop close by and a lot of people who come past buy him biscuits. My neighbour bought him a packet of biscuits and I had given him a packet of biscuits so he had two packets. Always, when he has two packets, he will eat the one packet outside and come inside, and share the second packet between us,” his father, Clint Smith told Daily Maverick.
Smith says from what he has been told by witnesses to the incident, Julies was approached by police officers, who were asking him some questions.
“Because he has down syndrome, they could not understand what he was saying so they left him and went to talk to some guy by the flats …
“After they searched the guys, they went back to him and Scorpion [a policeman, who is known in the area by that nickname], got out of the car and went to Lockie and shot him in the chest,” Smith said.
Smith said witnesses told him the force of the shot propelled the boy under a truck and the police had to pull him out from underneath before putting him in the van and driving off.
“By the time I ran out, the van was already driving off,” a distraught Smith said.
Smith got a neighbour to take him to the fire station and then to the police station where he gave a statement. His son-in-law fetched him and the two went to the hospital.
“I found my son. He was shot. The police left him in Bara [the hospital]. They shot him in the chest with a pump action. A 16-year-old boy with a pump action? Ay! Ay! Ay!”
The incident has sparked rioting in the area. Thursday was marked by running battles between the police and residents. Residents pelted policemen with stones and they responded with rubber bullets and water canons.
“Police must do their work right if they want to be respected by the Eldorado Park community. Right now, they are shooting at us and are failing to provide answers,” said Sandra Foster, a 38-year-old Eldorado Park resident.
Community leader Bishop Robinson told Daily Maverick that the Eldorado park community was not happy with the way the local police station was run. Residents accused police members of colluding with criminals and drug dealers.
“The main concern in our area is that the police are incompetent, they are eating with the criminals. Now the community wants to burn down the police station. What is happening in Eldos is very painful…We are tired of constantly talking about crime, we want all the corrupt officers to leave our area with immediate effect,” said Robinson.
Initial reports claimed that the Wednesday shooting happened while police were in pursuit of robbers, but Smith said that on the night, the area was quiet.
“Suddenly out of the stillness, a shot rang and that was the one for Lockie. …Jirre man, I can’t believe it.”
“That officer has no conscience,” said another Eldorado Park community leader, Keith Duarte.
Police spokesperson Kay Makhubele confirmed that a murder docket was opened with the Eldorado Park police, but said no arrests had been made yet. “The investigations will reveal the truth of what really transpired,” said Makhubele.
Gauteng Community Safety MEC, Faith Mazibuko visited the family on Thursday and said the docket had been removed from Eldorado Park police station as the officers could not investigate one of their own.
“I want justice for my son. Scorpion must serve justice or I don’t know what is going to happen… He must go to jail, if you do something wrong, you must go to jail or you must get punished,” Smith said.
Nathaniel is the second child to be killed by police gun fire in under a month.
Nine-year-old Laingville, St Helena Bay boy Leo Williams was killed after he was hit by a rubber bullet during violent protest action on 31 July. The boy and his friends had played and were watching TV in his uncle’s corrugated iron structure. Leo sustained a head wound. The structure was riddled with eight holes.
William Turdsworth was Lord Byron's nickname for William Wordsworth.