Czech newspaper reveals identity of man who allegedly shot Romani youths
The man who shot at two Romani youths on Sunday, killing one and injuring another, has not yet been charged by police and was released on his own recognizance after giving a statement. Information has been circulating that the man is a former police officer and that he has also left the country, but State Prosecutor Lenka Bradáčová has ruled that out. Czech daily Lidové noviny (LN) reports that the shooter is a certain Jan S., a local businessperson and former bobsledder.
Bradáčová is quoted in today's LN as saying there was no racial subtext to Sunday's incident. "This was not a racial matter. However, I cannot rule out murder charges. For the time being I would compare it to the case of the Neprakta club in Most from the end of 2003 [a shooting at a discotheque resulting in two deaths which in the end was evaluated as self-defense for which the shooter was not punished - Editors]. That case sparked the same kinds of emotions and ended up having been a case of necessary self-defense," Bardáčová told news server Lidovky.cz.
News server iDNES.cz has reported that some people in Tanvald intend to disrupt a commemoration ceremony that will be held in honor of the memory of the late Romani man and are planning their own anti-Romani demonstration. "We have received signals that there will be anti-Romani protests. We are concerned about that. Today we are meeting with police and after lunch we will meet with representatives from the Interior Ministry," Mayor of Tanvald Petr Polák told news server iDNES.cz.
A group calling itself "For a Secure Tanvald" ("Za bezpečné Tanvaldsko") has been launched on Facebook. Some members of the group are discussing an anti-Romani protest in their postings there, but it is not yet clear when it will take place. "I wouldn't disturb the Romani commemoration. What happened is sad. Like everyone else, I am concerned about what will happen next. A certain form of protest wouldn't bother me, but not on the day of the funeral," the founder of the group has posted there.
The funeral of the deceased youth will take place on Saturday in Tanvald, followed by a peaceful commemorative procession (not a demonstration). Those participating will head from the church to the scene of the shooting to light candles there. Eva Gáborová of the Roma Tanvald Association confirmed to news server Romea.cz today that the procession will take place after announcing it to the town hall this morning.
Gáborová emphasized to news server Romea.cz that the event is to be nonviolent and peaceful. "It's just about walking from the church to the scene of the shooting to light a candle. We are not planning a demonstration or marches, nothing of the sort," she told the Czech Press Agency, adding that people will go directly from the church to the scene of the shooting immediately after the funeral in the morning. She did not want to estimate how many people might participate in the event.
Jan Hlubuček, head of the Tanvald district department of the Czech Police, confirmed the information about a peaceful event on Saturday to the Czech Press Agency. As news server Romea.cz reported earlier, representatives of the Roma Tanvald Association have met with police. Officers are preparing for Saturday and will publicize details of their plans on Thursday.
According to Mayor of Tanvald Petr Polák (Civic Democrats - ODS), the route of the procession and the rules governing the event have already been discussed. "I believe the local Romani residents will follow the rules. Nevertheless, we don't know who will intervene from out of town, or how," the mayor told the Czech Press Agency, adding that he believed a commemoration, unlike a demonstration, does not have to be announced to authorities. Representatives of the Romani community had visited him to inform him of the event. "We reached agreement on the route they will take so as to cause as few complications as possible," the mayor said.
Police and the state prosecutor have released a minimum of information about the incident so far. It occurred at approximately 1:30 AM in a deserted place on the outskirts of town in the direction of the neighboring village of Desna. There has been a great deal of speculation about the circumstances. One possible version of events speculates that the 63-year-old man might have become the victim of a crime and was merely defending himself, but that has sparked a negative reaction from some members of the Romani community, who are calling the incident an execution.
The 24-year-old brother of the fatally wounded man was hospitalized in Liberec for a gunshot wound he received during the incident. "They released him today," Lukáš Gibiec, spokesperson for the regional hospital
, told the Czech Press Agency.
The mayor of Tanvald claims the alleged shooter is a harmless citizen, but local Romani residents are of a different opinion. "That guy threatened local Romani people here already more than once. He threatened them with his pistol and even took shots at them," a man named Pavel told LN, adding that no one ever reported the incidents.
"That man just does not like Romani people. He and his son used to run a used-car lot near the swimming pool. Whenever we walked by it he would set his dogs on us," a Romani resident of one of the residential hotels in Tanvald told LN.
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