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Czech Republic: Romani mother does not believe her son died a natural death after police intervention

Děčín/Ústí nad Labem, 8.12.2011 19:48, (ROMEA)

One week ago, a 26-year-old man diagnosed with schizophrenia died after a police intervention against him. His mother has told news server Romea.cz that "The claim that my son died a natural death strikes me as monstrous."

"Besides the fact that he had schizophrenia, my son was healthy. He regularly lifted 50-kg weights," the mother said.

The man's mother was responding to previous claims by Vojtěch Haňka, spokesperson for the regional police, who quoted from the preliminary autopsy report to the media that "from the medical point of view this was a natural death, no signs of the involvement of another party were discovered." One week ago, the 26-year-old man from Děčín suffered a schizophrenic attack, after which he was forcibly subdued by police. He then died.

Today Haňka told news server Romea.cz that the quote he gave the media was from the preliminary autopsy report. "We can't publish the conclusions until we have the results of the toxicological analysis, the autopsy isn't complete without them. I can't tell you when the autopsy report will be ready, that analysis could take as long as a month," Haňka said. When news server Romea.cz asked whether he could release the full conclusions of the preliminary autopsy report, Haňka said he could not.

Jiří Vondra, spokesperson for Regional Health (Krajská zdravotní), which manages the hospital in Děčín, told news server Romea.cz he cannot comment on the autopsy because police commissioned it from court-appointed medical examiners. Vondra said only the police can provide further information about the case.

The mother of the deceased would like to request that her son's body be spared burial or cremation for the time being. For every day that burial is delayed she will have to pay CZK 500. If she wants to request an independent autopsy, it will cost CZK 50 000. She is considering taking both steps nevertheless.

The incident occurred on Saturday 26 November. The man was then transported to the hospital. On Thursday, 1 December, the hospital informed the family that their 26-year-old son had died.

The man suffered from attacks of schizophrenia that were sometimes aggressive. His parents usually called emergency medical services when they occurred. This time, however, paramedics did not succeed in calming him so he could be sedated, and they called in police officers for assistance. Those officers called for backup because the man grabbed a knife and shouted at everyone to leave him alone. However, he did not threaten anyone and stood several meters away from everybody else, at the end of a long corridor. He then locked himself in a room.

The parents say the youth then quieted down and opened the door calmly for police on his own. The intervening police officers, however, used force to subdue him to such an extent that he was carried unconscious from the apartment. Paramedics had to revive him on the scene because his heart had stopped. He had to be revived once more in the hospital.

The mother suspects officers used a taser and tear gas when subduing her son. Police are rejecting allegations that any 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 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.

The hospital has ruled out the possibility of errors as well. "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, said yesterday.

František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, Jitka Votavová, Jitka Votavová, František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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