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Slovakia: Off-duty cop shoots dead three Romani people and injures two others

Hurbanovo, Komárno district, Slovakia, 16.6.2012 22:20, (ROMEA)

A 51-year-old municipal police officer in the Slovak town of Hurbanovo has shot dead three Romani people and wounded another two. The officer shot dead Gabriel L. († 45), his son Mário L. († 19) and a person named Július whose age has not yet been determined. He also wounded another of Gabriel's sons, Kristián (age 26) and his wife, Žaneta L. (age 26). The woman was shot in the thigh and her husband was shot in the chest. Both were transported to hospital and operated on immediately. Kristián is in serious condition with a gunshot wound to his lungs and his wife is in stable condition.

The perpetrator eventually sat down not far from the scene of his crime with the pistol to his own head and threatened to commit suicide. A police negotiator and other masked officers subdued him instead.

The perpetrator, a 51-year-old patrol officer, was off-duty when he walked into the yard of the single-family home in Komárňajska street and shot three Romani people dead. Still armed, he then walked one street over before sitting down and threatening to kill himself. Still holding the weapon, he sat down on the steps of the single-family home owned by the Mayor of Hurbanovo, Markéta Pozemková. No one was home at the time. Police officers removed a gardener who was working in the yard to safety. "I don't want to hurt anyone ..." the shooter told negotiators before turning himself in.

Slovak Interior Minister Róbert Kaliňák convened an extraordinary briefing to report on the incident and the police response to it. He confirmed that all of the victims of the shooting, including those wounded, are from one family. He expressed appreciation for the work of the police, who managed to arrest the shooter after more than two hours of work. Kaliňák said the officer had come into contact with the victims during the course of his professional work. Both he and they are Hungarian.

Kaliňák said the victims of the assault are known to police and that four of the five reportedly have criminal pasts. The perpetrator has been an officer for 20 years, with only a brief interruption at one point in his career. He has worked for the Hurbanovo Municipal Police and for the District Police in Hurbanovo district. Kaliňák said the perpetrator's police colleagues had not noticed him behaving suspiciously lately.

Kaliňáka said the perpetrator fired an illegally held Czech-made weapon, a ČZ 52 pistol of the kind once used by the Czechoslovak Army. The perpetrator will probably be prosecuted for homicide or premeditated murder. The case will be investigated by the Office for the Fight against Organized Crime.

It is not yet known what caused the incident. Police have not provided much information to the media. The Hurbanovo Municipal Police has not yet issued a statement on the case. Božena Bruchterová, a spokesperson for the police in Nitra, announced that police had intervened at the crime scene. "We do not yet know what his motive was," she said.

News server Čas.sk reports that the shooter is from the town of Svatý Petr (Komárno district). "He is not from our community. We rarely saw him in the village because he was working most of the time. I did see him sitting with a group of friends at a dance once. He was having a good time, there was nothing to indicate he might be aggressive or malicious," the shooter's neighbor described him.

There have been similar cases in Slovakia in the past. In August 2010, Ľubomír Harman († 48) shot dead an entire Romani family after entering their apartment in the quarter of Devínská Nová Ves. After murdering everyone in the apartment, he murdered another man from the same family on his way out of the building before shooting up several cars on the street. He then began shooting into windows as he walked down the street, hitting a woman who had come out onto her balcony; she died as a result of her injuries. Police arrived two minutes after the shooting spree began. Harman shot a police officer in the chest before committing suicide. It is still unknown why the shooter committed the crime which took the lives of eight people including himself and wounded 15 people.

In August 2002 a dramatic incident occurred in the town of Tupá (Levice district) when 62-year-old Štefan Gemer got into an argument with his Romani neighbors, to whom he sold alcohol and loaned money. The dispute resulted in a tragedy: Gemer started shooting at his neighbor, killing him, his wife, and their infant son in his carriage, who was not yet one year old. He continued his rampage, shooting at other neighbors and wounding two, before fleeing into the mountains. Two and a half months later, police arrested him near Banská Štiavnice. Gemer had a crossbow, explosives, a rifle and other weapons when he was discovered. He was sentenced to life in prison.

František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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