PETALING JAYA: The government and police were ordered by the Taiping High Court in Perak to pay RM602,500 in damages to a former palm oil plantation worker, who was shot at by “overzealous” police officers during a car chase seven years ago.
In her decision, judicial commissioner Noor Nuwena Nurdin found Corporal Zulkifli Sulaiman and Constable Zafran Aiman Zainol “personally negligent”, saying they had failed to exercise care in the discharge of their duties.
“It is all about making the right choice.
“It is common knowledge and could have been easily anticipated by trained police personnel that shooting towards members of the public from a moving vehicle with the kind of road condition (winding road) was a recipe for disaster,” she said.
On Nov 10, 2016, Isma Izami Jaafar, 29, was driving three friends from Semanggol in Kamunting, Perak, to Alor Pongsu when a police vehicle approaching from the left side of the road ordered him to pull over.
Isma, who was driving without a valid driving licence, panicked and kept driving, causing the policemen to open fire on the car.
The car chase eventually ended in front of his house.
Isma’s mother, Norpisah Shah Bani, testified that by the time she appeared, the two cops had their guns pointed at her son, who at that point was covered in blood, and his three friends.
In total, the police officers discharged 22 gunshots during the incident, leaving Isma requiring surgery to remove bullet fragments from his brain.
In their defence, Zulkifli and Zafran – who were based in Kerian and on patrol that day – said they noted that Isma was driving a “modified” car. They said a check revealed that the number plate on the car was registered to a motorcycle.
The policemen added that they turned on their siren and lights, and chased Isma down, repeatedly telling him to stop the car. They also claimed Isma drove dangerously and “tried to force the police vehicle off the narrow road”.
As a result, Zafran said he instructed Zulkifli to shoot Isma’s tyres.
However, Nuwena dismissed their defence saying Isma’s high-speed driving did not place them in any danger as he was the one being pursued by the police.
“It was not disputed that the first shot was fired after 21.3km of the pursuit within a 30-minute period,” she said.
Nuwena also dismissed any suggestion that Zulkifli and Zafran were in any danger during the entire episode.
“There was no evidence that the plaintiff (Isma) and the three passengers shot or threw objects at the police vehicle during the pursuit,” she said.
Nuwena awarded Isma RM350,000 in general damages, having taken into consideration the injuries he suffered.
In his testimony, Isma said residual foreign metal was embedded in his brain, resulting in permanent brain damage and the loss of basic functions, including the ability to do simple arithmetic.
The court also ordered RM240,000 for loss of income and RM12,500 as special damages.
The government has filed an appeal.