Czech Republic: Police claim young Romani man died of natural causes
Děčín Municipal Police spokesperson Vojtěch Haňka says a preliminary report indicates that a 26-year-old Romani man from Děčín who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia died a natural death a week ago after a conflict with police officers. The report to which he is referring is most probably the medical certificate in which the man was pronounced dead.
News server Romea.cz was the first to report the case. According to the relatives of the dead youth, police officers used force and a taser during their intervention against him even though the man was not resisting anymore. The officers are also said to have made inappropriate statements about the youth's skin color; the family identifies as Romani.
The incident took place on Saturday, 26 November. The man was then transported to the hospital. On Thursday, 1 December, the hospital informed the family that their son had died. The man is said to have suffered from frequent fits of aggression, during which the parents usually called emergency medical services. This time, however, paramedics did not succeed in calming him so he could be sedated, and police officers were called. The man is then said to have grabbed a knife and to have shouted to everyone to leave him alone, but he reportedly never threatened anyone. He then locked himself in a room. The parents say the youth then calmed down and opened the door on his own, but the police officers subdued him to such an extent that he was carried unconscious from the apartment.
Police are rejecting allegations that errors were committed, saying the use of force in the incident has already been reviewed by their internal monitoring mechanism, which found nothing wrong. The police spokesperson even initially claimed that the Czech Police Inspectorate had already investigated the case. "The Inspectorate found no evidence of any wrongdoing. Results of the autopsy should be available tomorrow," Haňka said yesterday.
However, Radka Sandorová, spokesperson for the Czech Police Inspectorate, said the Inspectorate has not investigated the case. "Unless it could have been the internal affairs office," she said.
Haňka has now clarified that the case has only been reviewed by the direct superiors of the intervening officers. Those superiors evaluated the intervention as professional and proportionate. "The officers chose more moderate methods, such as a shield, handcuffs, and physical restraint, to pacify the person without using more forcible techniques," Haňka said. He thoroughly rejected the hypotheses that a taser or tear gas had been used.
After this "more moderate" police intervention, the man's heart stopped. He was revived in the ambulance. "We are ruling out the possibility that the hospital committed an error, the person was brought in after being resuscitated and his basic life systems were failing. Even though those functions were revived, he was essentially brain-dead and was in a purely vegetative state," Jiří Vondra, spokesperson for the Regional Health Service, told the Czech Press Agency.
The hospital will reportedly be issuing a more precise statement later today. The doctor who was on duty that day and who treated the youth has been in the operating room since morning.
A court-ordered autopsy was performed on the body yesterday. The definitive conclusion cannot be released until the toxicology results are available, but the local police are saying the autopsy will prove their intervention was not a flawed one. "From the medical point of view, this was a natural death. No signs of the involvement of any other party have been discovered," Haňka writes in the Děčín Police Department's press release, which also attacks the media: "The Děčín Police completely protest the disinformation and untrue claims being spread by some media outlets in relation to the intervention against the 26-year-old man at the end of November."
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