The family of a Cape Town man who died in police custody say they want answers from police as to why he was arrested. Speculation surrounding the death of 37-year-old Nadeem Khan has made headlines after he was arrested for allegedly trying to sell a stolen cell phone. Khan was arrested in Rondebosch when police received a tip off that someone was trying to sell a stolen cell phone in the area.
However, Nadeem’s brother, Dr Amien Khan claims that his brother was trying to sell his own cell phone.
“My brother had two phones; he was trying to sell the one phone for extra cash. Someone at the mall had called the police informing them that there was someone trying to sell a stolen cell phone,” Dr Amien told VOC News.
Nadeem was at the mall to meet a friend who confirmed to the family that he indeed was trying to sell his own phone. The friend also informed Dr Amien that his brother had parked his car opposite the mall and whilst waiting outside his car, he discovered he had lost his keys.
“My brother called my mother to inform her that his car keys were missing. He felt his pocket and his jacket pocket was open. He was on the phone with my mother when two police officers came up to him and asked him to hand over the phone. He then told him it was his phone and questioned why he should hand it over. At the time my mother was still on line and just heard the line go dead which was when she told my father she realised that they needed to get to Nadeem,” he explained.
When their panicked mother called her son’s phone again, a police officer answered. She was stunned when he asked her if her son was asthmatic.
“The police officer asked my mother twice if my brother was asthmatic and she clearly said no he was only bipolar and he was on medication for that. The officer just said my parents need to make their way to the Rondebosch police station,” Dr Amien continued.
Nadeem’s parents arrived at the station when after what seemed like an hour, were met with by a trauma councillor.
“My parents were called in by the trauma councillor who broke the news of my brother’s death. Both my parents were stunned and confused because they spoke to him not too long ago. After the information was shared with my parents, my father called me to come into the station. At the time I had not registered what had happened.”
On arriving at the station, Dr Amien asked to see his brother.
“The officers were very hesitant to show us Nadeem and after a while, to our dismay we found that the area was cordoned off as a crime scene and that his body was lying on his back in the van. We saw some scratch marks on his body but at this stage we did not know what had happened,” he recalled.
Dr Amien, who is a maxillofacial surgeon, believes the cause of his brother’s death may be a result of the anxiety that overwhelmed him during the incident.
“I assume my brother must have been under emotional stress which could have actually caused the sympathetic arousal to increase adrenal secretion, which may have led him to having hyperventilated causing cardiac arrest.”
But Dr Amien has ruled out any foul play on the part of the police. While the family believe’s Nadeem’s death was pre-determined, it still wants answers on why he was arrested and whether police followed proper procedure.
“The way the police acted, we just feel they could have handled it better. It seems like it’s still this old policy of people being arrested and there’s a lot of physical contact still. Our police are not adequately trained…”
The father of two was laid to rest on Friday afternoon after his body underwent a post-mortem.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate is currently investigating this case. IPID spokesperson Moses Dlamini has confirmed that this incident is under early stages of an investigation.
“IPID is investigating the circumstances around the death of a man in police custody after police received a report that someone was selling a stolen phone at Pick and Pay in Rondebosch. Police arrested the suspect who was put at the back of the police vehicle while he was handcuffed and taken to the police station which is across the road from the Pick and Pay,” Dlamini said.
Dlamini added that when police arrived at the station the found that the suspect was struggling to breath.
“When police found that he was struggling to breathe, paramedics were called and they declared him dead.
The matter has since been reported to IPID. At this stage the investigation is in its early stages and a post mortem has been conducted but it has not determined the cause of death.”
IPID has called on people who may have present on the day and taken footage of the event to come forward and help police with its investigation.
“If anyone has evidence, footage or wants to make a statement they are urged to contact our offices on 021 941 4800.” VOC (Najma Bibi Noor Mahomed)