Czech Republic: Man who fired weapon near Romani summer camp apologizes
"I didn't want the children or Ms Ida Kelarová to be affected. I would like to deeply apologize for my words, I overdid it. The situation was an exacerbated one, problems with noise from those accommodated at that camp have been happening for years," Martin Kout, the man who threatened Romani children from Kelarová's Čhavorenge choir at a camp gathering in the town of Jiřetín pod Jedlovou, has told news server Romea.cz.
Kout alleges that the camp owner has long taken a lax approach to noisy behavior by visitors who bother neighbors living nearby. "I understand he's doing his best to rent spaces at the camp, but his visitors are noisy. I work different shifts and I live right next door. Imagine that you'd been listening to that noise for almost half a year straight every year for five years and you couldn't get to sleep. I usually work the night shift. This wasn't about the fact that at that moment Romani people were being accommodated there," Kout claimed.
He also rejects the interpretation of his having fired a weapon as meaning he was threatening those participating in the camp with death. "I have a dog and I take him for walks regularly. A friend of mine who is a gamekeeper was visiting, and I was demonstrating to him that my dog is not afraid of loud noises. However, it was not a weapon I fired, but just a starter pistol. The children were exercising at the time and the entire thing escalated. It decidedly was not the case that I would have entered the camp with a weapon," Kout said.
Organizers of the summer camp described Kout firing a weapon twice during their stay and coming directly onto the campus during one of those incidents. "My experience has also been that if I politely tell the campers to be quiet, they pounce on me. This past spring I woke up one small group at 6 AM who had been making noise until 4 AM - after all these years my nerves can't take it, I can't behave politely anymore if nothing is going to change," Kout asserts.
The local resident did admit entering the campus of the facility and did admit cursing at the campers in a way that was both racist and vulgar. "I made an error, I barged into the kitchen and cursed everybody in a vulgar way. First I told them that they had all gone crazy, that it was enough, that they were all 'cretins', and some guy attacked me back, and then unfortunately I just went off the wall, I told them they were 'f******Gypsies' and stuff like that. I just snapped. I did not want the children or Ms Kelarová to be affected. I am terribly sorry that I cursed in such a vulgar way and I gladly apologize to Ms Kelarová. The noise, though, was simply there, and it worked on my nerves," Kout said.
Kelarová's statement in an interview about the incident for Romea.cz stated that most of the camp program took place indoors due to the cool weather. The children were said to have been outdoors during morning exercises, when traveling to perform in concert, and during games.
"Naturally, [the children] were glad that they had completed the entire 'mission' [of a camp game - Editors], so they happily ran down the hiking path, which goes past the house of a person who lives above the recreational cottages where we were accommodated. The children were understandably in high spirits, so they were whooping with delight, but of course it only took them about a minute to run past that house. The gentleman living there sprang to his feet and began to shout at them (and here I apologize for the vulgarisms): 'You black Gypsies!', 'F**k off!', etc. Then he fired his gun into the air," Kelarová said in that interview.
"I reject the allegation that I fired while inside the camp - I was on my own property. During the conflict in the kitchen I said terrible things, but I decidedly never meant to be racist, it just bothers me that noise comes from the camp for several months at a time," Kout said.
The incident is being investigated by Regional Police. The investigation will also focus on why local police officers did not visit the scene when camp organizers called them for aid.
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