Private security guard to be indicted after Safi migrant riot shooting

The court rules that there is enough evidence to indict a private security guard for attempted murder after he shot at an escaping migrant during a riot at the Safi detention centre last month

A photo disseminated by the police force of the subdued migrants after a night of rioting
A photo disseminated by the police force of the subdued migrants after a night of rioting

A private security guard who fired shots at an immigrant who tried to escape from detention has been indicted for attempted murder after the court ruled there was enough prima facie evidence.

The compilation of evidence against Darren Bonello, 30, from St Paul's Bay, continued this afternoon. Bonello stands accused of the attempted murder of migrant Abdulrahman Abdullah Hamza, at whom he fired two shots.

Bonello is denying the charges and was granted bail a few days after the incident. The shooting took place at around 2:30am on 18 September, causing Hamza slight injury.

Bonello was also accused of carrying an unlicensed weapon, breaching the conditions of his firearms licence, being in possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime and working as a security guard without a licence.

Private security guards are not allowed to carry weapons, let alone use them to on people.

Testifying today, a police officer from the Rapid Intervention Unit  described how outnumbered officers had tried to control a group of migrants who were attempting to escape from the Safi Detention centre.

PC Daniel Debattista told Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo that officers had used up all their rubber bullet ammunition and had radioed for resupply as they felt the situation was sliding out of their control.

Debattista, who had been hospitalised after being hit in the face with a stone during the incident, said he stopped at a storage facility resupply with more ammunition before proceeding to the site where he found “around 8 to 10” other officers trying to control a situation which seemed to be getting out of hand. 

He testified that he had not seen Bonello firing any shots but remembered that Bonello had approached him and offered him a cartridge with lead shot upon noticing that the officers’ ammunition had been expended. He refused the lead shot cartridge, telling him that only rubber bullets are used in such cases. He added that if the situation had escalated further, the officers would have been constrained to utilise any remaining ammunition.

Debattista’s testimony was confirmed by an officer stationed at the Zejtun police station who was dispatched to help control the situation at Safi.

Police sergeant Aaron Caruana explained that when he had arrived on the scene, all he was carrying was pepper spray and handcuffs. He was handed more equipment by detention officers to shield himself from items being thrown at the police. 

He said he conducted a search and had found the Benelli on the back seat of the accused’s car, along with 39 unspent cartridges.

A doctor from Mater Dei Hospital had examined Hamza and documented injuries all over his body, the court heard. An X-ray showed lead pellets embedded in his limbs and abdomen.

At the end of the sitting, the court ruled that there was sufficient evidence for Bonello to be indicted. 

Police Inspector Jannetta Grixti prosecuted. Lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia were defence counsel.