The public prosecutor’s office in Berlin has initiated preliminary proceedings against a police officer on suspicion of bodily harm resulting in death. This was announced by the authority on Tuesday. It’s about a drunk homeless man against whom the officers used pepper spray on April 20th.
The 39-year-old Marcel K. had to be resuscitated shortly after the deployment. A week later he died in hospital. In left-wing circles, the death is blamed on the officials, and a demonstration is being mobilized for June 2nd. But the matter is not settled yet. A homicide commission from the State Criminal Police Office (LKA) took over the case.
The officials had been alerted that evening because of trespassing in Niederschoeneweide. They met three homeless people on a stairwell in the Brückenstrasse. According to the police, they asked the men to leave the house. Two of the homeless then left, the third man, Marcel K., is said to have thrown a glass bottle at the police officers, kicked them and hit them.
The man’s environment and left-wing activists said that K. had been suffering from an open leg injury for months. One of the police officers is said to have pulled on this leg. This could, as can be concluded from the various accounts, have been the trigger for K.’s reaction.
Because the police officers are said to have been attacked, they then used pepper spray against K., it said. Then they managed to fix the man who is said to have continued to resist. Suddenly K. is said to have suffered from shortness of breath and lost consciousness. The officials are said to have resuscitated him, stabilized him and called an ambulance.
K. was taken to a hospital, where he died on April 27. The officers had to leave the service after the operation, according to the authorities, they suffered eye and respiratory irritation from the pepper spray themselves, and the policeman also had “pain in the neck and on a wrist due to the resistance actions”.
After K. died, the police initiated a death investigation. It was about the cause of death and the question of whether the actions of the police “could have been the cause” of the death, as the prosecutor explained on Tuesday. The police officers worked in Directorate 3 in the east of the city, and Directorate 4, another local directorate, took over the procedure.
At the request of the police and the public prosecutor’s office, the district court in Tiergarten ordered an autopsy on K.’s body at the beginning of May. On June 3, investigations were launched against the two officers. Prosecutors say the process is still in its infancy. According to the autopsy, there is no clear indication that the actions of the officers were the reason for K.’s death. However, it cannot be ruled out that it was the cause.
Even if that were the case, the actions of the police officers could be classified as lawful – because of the alleged attack they had to fend off. It was initially unclear whether K. communicated the pain in his leg. He also suffered from several illnesses. According to investigators, it cannot be assumed that the officers acted intentionally. Rather, the investigations, which could also lead to the officials being exonerated, served to ensure transparency. The officers are still on duty.