HARARE, Zimbabwe – Border police in Zimbabwe shot and killed a Connecticut man who was on a humanitarian mission in Africa, the U.S. Embassy said Tuesday.
Richard Gilman, 58, a computer consultant and former teacher from Torrington, Conn., was shot near the border with Mozambique on Monday after allegedly speeding from a police roadblock, police and state media said.
"The circumstances of the death remain unclear," a statement from the U.S. Embassy said. "We have sent people there to talk to anyone who can help us understand what happened."
Gilman had been visiting his brother in the border town of Mutare, about 160 miles east of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. He donated supplies and helped with nutritional programs at a local school where his brother was a teacher.
The state-run Herald newspaper reported Tuesday that an American driving a Toyota Corolla with South African license plates was stopped at a roadblock. The man's visa was valid until January, but the car's temporary import permit had expired Oct. 28.
According to the newspaper, the American became uncooperative and drove off at high speeds, forcing officers in front of him to jump out of his path. One officer 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, The Herald said.
He was taken to a medical facility, where he died three hours later under police guard.
Police headquarters in Harare said the shooting was being investigated. No further information was immediately available from police on Tuesday.
On Monday, Zimbabwe police told the Waterbury Republican-American, a Connecticut newspaper, that Gilman argued with border officers about his passport and travel papers.
"He tried to run away and that's when he was shot," officer John Nahanda was quoted as telling the newspaper.
Gilman's wife, Mary, said from her Torrington home Monday that her husband was returning from a round of golf. She said she found it difficult to believe he had argued with an authority figure in a foreign country he loved and had visited before.
Gilman had been in Mutare almost three weeks, and was to return to Connecticut in 10 days, the newspaper reported.
"He went there to help children and get food," his wife said.
Even before his trip, Gilman had sent food and supplies, including books and clothing, to the school at his own expense, his longtime friend Art Perret said.
"I went hiking with him just a few weeks ago," Perret said. "We talked about his planned trip. I asked him about the volatile situation. He described the people in the area as friendly. He wasn't worried about his safety at all."
Zimbabwe, wracked by political violence and economic turmoil for 2 years, is suffering its worst economic crisis independence from Britain in 1980.
At least half the country's 12.5 million people face hunger in coming months because of a sharp drop in agricultural production blamed on a drought and the government's seizure of thousands of white-owned commercial farms.