The videotaped death of cab driver who was tied to a police car and dragged down the street is being investigated as a murder, South African police said today.
In the graphic video recorded by an onlooker, a taxi driver who resisted arrest was tied by his hands to the back of a police vehicle and dragged on his back hundreds of feet down a street, despite pleas of protest from a crowd watching the arrest.
The police unit investigating the incident in the Daveyton township near Johannesburg said the driver, Mido Macia, 27, was found dead in a jail cell Tuesday two hours after his arrest.
“This appalling incident involving excessive force is the latest in an increasingly disturbing pattern of brutal police conduct in South Africa,” said Amnesty International’s southern Africa director Noel Kututwa.
According to Kututwa, this is one of hundreds of cases of suspicious deaths in police custody that are submitted for investigation each year to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).
The video of Macia’s arrest was first posted online today by the Daily Sun and has quickly spread through South African media where it is now being broadcast on television. Witnesses told the Daily Sun Macia argued with police about whether his vehicle was parked illegally. In the video, at least six uniformed police officers are seen easily overpowering Macia after he refuses to walk with them to the police van.
It is not clear why they didn’t lock him inside the back of the van, instead of tying his hands near the bumper while he lay behind the vehicle. At first the van is moving very slowly, and officers walking behind the vehicle lift Macia by his legs to keep his body off the ground. But suddenly the police van speeds up, and Macia is dragged down the street while shouting onlookers try to run after it.
“Horrible!” shouts one person near the video camera.
IPID spokesman Moses Dlamini said Macia grabbed one of the officer’s guns during the arrest which another officer quickly recovered. Dlamini said an autopsy found Macia died of head injuries and internal bleeding.
Politicians in South Africa have been quick to condemn the violent arrest, including President Jacob Zuma who released a statement extending condolences to the Macia’s family.
“The visuals of the incident are horrific, disturbing and unacceptable. No human being should be treated in that manner,” Zuma said.
Dlamini said no arrests have been made yet, but Macia’s death is being investigated as murder. He told The Times newspaper he expects arrests will be made soon.
ABC News’ Bruno Roeber and Sifiso Khanyile contributed to this report