“We’re in the dark”: Questions surround Roma street death case

The death of a Romany man in Teplice on Saturday has been making international headlines, after video emerged of officers restraining him shortly before he reportedly died in an ambulance. The police say, however, that a preliminary autopsy has found a drug overdose to be the cause of death. I discussed the case with Roma rights advocate Gwendolyn Albert, who is among those comparing the man’s death to that of George Floyd in the US.

“The parallels are extraordinary. First of all there’s the very fact that without a bystander filming the incident we would not know what the nature of the police intervention was.

“Then there’s the fact that the police used the exact same tactic that the police used in the George Floyd case – kneeling on somebody’s neck, which is a very, very risky tactic to use.

“The third parallel is that this person is a member of a community that is pretty much despised here sadly, and experiences a lot of racism.

“And lastly the last few days have shown that the other parallel is that the response of the authorities has been defensive, rushed, callous, and I would even say arrogant.”

What do you say to the police’s assertion that they had to use force because this man was out of control and was fighting and damaging a car?

“The police are allowed to use force – I don’t think anybody questions that.

“But the question is what kind of force do they use and for how long.

“And in this case they chose a method that is life threatening, extremely risky and universally condemned after the George Floyd case.

Photo: Ondřej Hájek,  ČTK

“You know, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that if you cut off somebody’s air flow they risk either enormous injury or death.

“It’s just very clear.”

But isn’t the issue then that the Czech police may have questionable procedures and is not about the officers in this case, who say at least that they followed the correct procedures?

“They say that they followed procedure and the question is – and this is something that an independent investigation of this incident would determine, and that’s what needs to happen – whether it was genuinely proportionate.

“Is it proportionate to keep kneeling on the person’s neck after he stops moving, for minutes? That’s the question.

“That’s something that hopefully an independent investigation will answer and the courts will answer in the future, but we’re at the very, very beginning phases of this.”

What about the preliminary autopsy? That reportedly says that the death of this man wasn’t caused by the police’s actions but was a drug overdose. Doesn’t that kind of end the comparison between this case and that of George Floyd?

“Not at all. The police asserted the exact same thing in George Floyd’s case in the United States.

“They pointed to substances in his body and a heart condition, which the autopsy also mentions.”

Yes, but the autopsy here says that he specifically died of a drug overdose.

“Well that’s why the family needs to ask for a second autopsy, as soon as possible.

“There needs to be an independent autopsy conducted.

“What we need to ask is, What is the medical reasoning?

“And when the coroner conducted that autopsy, was the information revealed to them of how the police had proceeded? Were they aware, did they see the video or not?

“That’s a question.”

But is it really a question? Because surely the coroner does a medical examination and then they see what the cause of death was – they don’t have to look at a video.

“We haven’t seen the report itself. So we don’t know what all it says.

“What we know is what the police say it says, and the police may not have told us everything that it says.

“The autopsy may have found, for example, marks on the body consistent with what the police did, etcetera.

“We don’t know… we don’t know anything about anything.

“We don’t know any details, we don’t know about his blood oxygen level and all that kind of think.

“We’re just simply in the dark really.

“The approach that the police are taking is to say, Trust us, these two things are unrelated.

“And that’s not good enough. It’s not good enough when somebody dies to say that.”

Romský George Floyd? Muž zemřel po zásahu policie v Teplicích. Ta odmítá, že za smrt může zákrok