What exactly happened at Top Pub?

The entrance to Top Pub, The bar has been closed for invesitgations ever since the day of the shooting. Photo by Rachel Mabala.

What you need to know:

On October 7, a patron opened fire at revellers at Top Pub. One man was killed and others were injured. So what exactly happened? Was it a love affair gone bad? Was the incident to do with revenge? Many versions have been given. We try to look through them all.

It takes being city smart or a regular patron, for one to easily locate Top Pub, during the day. Its neighbourhood offers the why. The bar is situated in the midst of banks, shops and shopping arcades which makes it lose, hands-down, to the three premises, in the competition for attracting human traffic.

Even when these do not obscure it, the vehicles that park a few feet from the entrance do so. The situation is not saved by the signpost; it hangs from the ceiling of the bar’s patio, in such a way that you have to back paddle from it in order to clearly read it. However, in the night, the bar is no challenge to find. With the banks, shops and shopping arcades closed, it enjoys monopoly in endearing people towards it.

A popular bar
Top Pub is located on William Street. It is partitioned into the VIP and ordinary section. The latter is on the ground floor and the former on the first.

The difference between the two segments is in the prices charged for the drinks sold and the ambience. The ordinary section is crammed with stools, away from the counters and a pool table, while the VIP section is spaced with thick leather settees. The bar is open 24 hours a day. Patrons talked to say that the bar is frequented by all classes of people because of the mutual luring forces, the sex workers.

The recent airplay it has received on televisions and the space it has had in newspapers is about it being the scene of a shooting which took place on the morning of October 7, and culminated into the death of one person and injuring of eight people.

Since the start of this year, a number of fatal shootings have occurred in the country – many of which have been forgotten – but, this particular one has hang around, a tad longer. Two reasons can be fingered for this; the mysterious circumstances surrounding the shooting and the fact that it is the second shooting of its kind at the pub.

Upon his arrest, 24-year-old Deogratius IIukol, a security guard with Hash Security Group confessed he had done it. Much as his is a story from the horse’s mouth, some customers who were at the bar in the night that preceded the incident say it is riddled with deceit. We merged their accounts and Ilukol’s to construct the events that happened before the shooting.

A patron who spoke to this paper on condition of anonymity recalls that he first saw IIukol at about 9pm. “I was standing close to the entrance. IIukol walked up to the bouncers who were doing the routine checking of customers as they walked into the bar.

Walking in with a firearm
“Before he was checked, he removed his shirt from his trousers and pulled out a pistol from the waist band of his pants. He unloaded it of its magazine, gave it to the bouncer and returned the pistol to its former position. Then, the bouncer checked him and waved him in,” narrates the patron.

“At that time, it did not sink into my mind that I would later regret not reporting what I had just witnessed. At 11pm, Johnson Rukundo, the deceased bouncer took over duty. He usually came in at this time because he would first supervise the security at a sister bar called Indigo. Rukundo was a respected fellow. His presence at the bar was enough to keep away chaos mongers.”

The patron says that he saw Ilukol, again, at 2am. He states that the security guard was seated in a plastic chair, on the pub’s patio sipping on a beer, with nobody in his company.

Ibn Senkumbi, the police spokesperson is not specific about the time when the officer entered the bar. However, he says that according to Ilukol’s confession, the latter had been in the bar before 3am. “At 3am, he suggested to his girlfriend – for whom he had bought a number of drinks – that they should go home. The girlfriend did not object but told the 24-year-old that she would find him outside.

“He waited for her, over a period which he felt was abnormally long. Concerned about what could have befallen her, he went back to the bar. He found his girlfriend chatting away with another man. This did not go down well with him.

“He reminded the girlfriend that they were supposed to be going home but she was not obliging. He decided to sit and continue with the drinking. Unable to bear the anger of his girl not heeding to his call, he started shooting indiscriminately,” Senkumbi says.

Barbra Ndagire who was shot in the shoulder, twice, and is also rumoured to be the girlfriend in question, offers a different account of the moment prior to the shooting. “I was seated near Ilukol from 4am. At approximately 6am, a brawl broke out between him and the deceased bouncer. I am not certain, though, of the details of the misunderstanding. What followed was the shooting. That the bouncer was shot in the chest and not in the back is proof that the shooting was sparked off by the melee between the two,” Ndagire states.

That different people are offering contradicting accounts of what occurred in a place they were at during the same time, is a hint to the police about the kind of effort that the investigation requires.

At the end of the night though, one man was dead and eight injured. That this is the second incident happening at the very place, shows that a similar crime could take place again if no stringent measures are taken to secure the lives of its patrons.

How can bars keep patrons secure?
Efrance Nakkazi, a victim of the shooting says that it is habitual for the pub’s customers to be subjected to security checks before they are admitted into the pub.

“This is done by bouncers who use both their hands and metal devices. It was not any different on that night. Everyone was checked before they could go in,” Nakkazi says.

Then why did the bouncer let Deogratius IIukol in, with a gun? An employee of the bar who spoke on condition of anonymity says that if it is true that the bouncer admitted in the culprit, yet he was in possession of a gun, he did so against the pub’s policy.

Policies not followed
“These bouncers are so trusted to an extent that no one supervises them. Therefore, maybe he took advantage of this to compromise our policy of not allowing entry to people carrying guns,” he says.

This information suggests that the sight of bouncers or security personnel carrying hand held metal detectors at the entrance of your favourite bar is not proof enough that it is secure.

According to Ibn Senkumbi, the Police spokesperson, people should pay more attention to the substance of the security than its form.

“People should observe the seriousness of the security personnel in carrying out their job. They shook look beyond the availability of metal detectors and seek to establish whether the person operating it is keen to find any hidden weapons.

The bouncers should not be the kind that reluctantly run their hands along one’s body and motion for them to enter,” says Senkumbi.

The police spokesperson further says that when one notices that the above standards are not being adhered to, one can report to the bar’s management or the police.

“If no amendments are made after one has reported, it is advisable that one changes to another bar or else a fatal event akin to the one that we saw at Top Pub, could happen,” says Senkumbi.

Innocent Nahabwe, the proprietor of Club Amnesia, says that bars should only employ trained and experienced security personnel.

“Some of the bouncers do not know how to handle firearms because they are not trained in that domain. I would recommend that bars should hire private or uniformed guards.

“The question of firearms can be best resolved by setting up a safe where all patrons that have guns deposit them before entering.

The wisdom behind this is that when one leaves the bar and picks their gun, you are aware and thus cannot permit them entry until they have deposited the gun in the safe,” says Nahabwe.

Location matters
Patrick Mukwana, a salesperson who often visits bars around the city, says that in the interest of security, it is important for one to put into consideration the location of a bar and the kind of customers it attracts before walking to it.