American Citizen Shot, Killed in Zimbabwe

July 7, 2008 - 8:12 PM

Johannesburg (CNSNews.com) - Zimbabwean police have shot and killed an American, apparently when he tried to flee from a checkpoint in that country.

Richard Gilman, 58, a computer consultant and former teacher from Torrington, Conn., was shot near the Mozambique border on Monday after allegedly speeding away from a police roadblock.

The circumstances of his death remain unclear, but the state-run Herald newspaper reported Tuesday that an American driving a vehicle with South African license plates was stopped at a roadblock. The driver's visa was valid until January, but the car's temporary import permit had expired at the end of October.

According to the newspaper, police described Gilman as uncooperative; they said he sped away, forcing officers in front of him to jump out of his path. One officer reportedly fired at the car's left rear wheel. A second bullet went through the car's rear license plate, ricocheted and struck Gilman in the shoulder.

He was taken to a local medical facility, where he died three hours later under police guard, the report said.

"He tried to drive away and that is when the officers shot," police spokesman Wayne Bvudizjena was quoted as saying.

Gilman had been visiting his brother in the border town of Mutare, 160 miles east of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. He helped donate supplies and assisted with nutritional programs at a local school.

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Harare told CNSNews.com that they were still waiting for a report from the Zimbabwean authorities on the incident. There were no details of arrangements to return the body to the U.S.

Gilman's wife Mary told the Waterbury Republican-American, a Connecticut newspaper, that her husband was returning from a golf game when he was stopped. "I find it difficult to believe he had argued with an authority figure in a foreign country he loved and visited before," she told the paper.

Gilman arrived in Mutare about 18 days ago and was staying with his brother. The two men were donating their time to a local school. "He went there to help children and get food," his wife was quoted as saying.

Zimbabwe has been wracked by political violence and economic turmoil for two and a half years. It is suffering its worst economic crisis since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.

At least half of the country's 12.5 million people face hunger in coming months, because of a devastating drought coupled with the Zimbabwean government's land-seizure program.

The violent state-sponsored land program has forced an estimated 4,000 white-owned commercial farms to close down. Many white farmers have fled the country as the government has sent militia into rural areas to attack them.

Over 20 farmers have been killed and hundreds attacked in the two years since the campaign to turn white-owned farms over to blacks first started. Both Britain and the European Union have imposed sanctions, and the U.S. State Department has warned Americans to avoid traveling to Zimbabwe.