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On Sunday, August 8, around 4:00 p.m., several hundred people gathered in front of the police station in the town of Lubin, South-Western Poland. They were standing on the sidewalk opposite the police station’s front door. - We came here to protest against police brutality- said the demonstrators, adding that they want to know the truth about what happened because the police account of the events differed radically from the version provided by the hospital staff and a local politician.
Demonstrators accuse the police of killing Bartek, a 34-year-old resident of Lubin. In the announcements of the protest on social media, appalled citizens emphasized the "barbaric treatment" of the young man.
Some of the commentators pointed out that Bartek had a problem with drugs, that they had seen him walk around the streets of Lubin under the influence. Others, while agreeing that the man had a drug problem, emphasized that "no one deserves to lose their life".
Protest against police brutality turned into a riot
Some of the demonstrators brought grave candles and lit them in front of the police station. Others chanted: "Come, kneel on me" and "f...ck the police".
Shortly after the protest began, people started throwing eggs at the police station, and the crowd shouted: "A!C!A!B!" and "Murderers".
After a while, a group of people tried to open the police station’s front door and throw the eggs inside. Police officers retaliated by firing tear gas. Some of them, wearing white helmets and carrying shields, were also on standby outside the police station’s gate.
After 5:00 p.m. the demonstration against police brutality turned into a riot. Protesters started throwing bottles and stones. The police used tear gas.
Police officers went outside the gate and assumed a tactical formation, covering themselves with shields. The demonstrators were divided into bystanders and aggressors. The latter group became increasingly more violent. Some covered their faces and wore balaclavas. They threw bricks at the policemen and the building, they set off explosives and flares. Some of the rioters were clearly under the influence of alcohol, some were teenagers who covered their faces with T-shirts. Violent demonstrators also damaged the glass in the police station’s front door, set fire to a garbage container, and tried to push it in front of the building. They also broke up a cobblestone sidewalk and threw it towards the officers.
Firefighters arrived at the police station and put down the container burning in the middle of the road. The demonstrators then began to warn each other "not to throw anything" at the firefighters.
As the riot went on, a couple of Molotov cocktails flew at the police. - Several officers were injured. They are being provided with medical assistance - said the deputy police chief Jabłoński.
Police units from all over the Lower Silesia region started to arrive at the site in Lubin- among them, an anti-terrorist unit from Wrocław. Police used water cannons. Around 9:00 p.m. law enforcement officers outnumbered the demonstrators. By then, the police arrested five people.
After 10:00 p.m., the most aggressive protesters (over 40 people) were detained – they will be charged with various crimes and misdemeanors. The police used direct coercive measures in the form of tear gas, smoothbore shotguns, and a water cannon - reads the official police communique summarizing the riots.
Video shows local police officers kill a young man during an intervention
Bartek, the man whose death ignited the protest, died on Friday, August 6. Police were called to a 34-year-old man quarreling near the police station on Traugutta Street. The person calling the police was the man’s mother. According to the information provided by the victim’s family, the woman wanted someone to help her son and take him to the hospital. According to the official police report, she said that that the man was throwing stones at windows, and that he was abusing drugs.
The victim’s family recalls that police and an emergency medical service had been at Bartek's house the day before, and that the man received an injection to calm him down, but it didn't work.
On Friday, police officers were struggling to restrain Bartek. A 7-minute video of the intervention released online shows two police officers (a male and a female) tugging at the agitated man. He is writhing, kicking the officers, and shouting: "help me", "they're going to kill me", "mom".
The officers then try to overpower him. A third officer in a uniform and another one in civilian clothes join in. The man continues to struggle. The officers try to put Bartek in the police car but are unsuccessful. At one point, when the man is pinned to the ground, we can hear him wheeze and after a while, he loses consciousness. At the end of the video, we can see the policeman shaking him, trying to revive him, and calling his name. "They killed him!" – says the person recording the video shortly before it cuts off.
The man's death was reported to the prosecutor's office, who opened an investigation into the case. The regional police department’s inspectorate in Wrocław has also been notified. The police informed that the course of the intervention is being established. The prosecutor's office had ordered an autopsy to determine the cause of the man's death.
Victim’s family claims police searched their house without a warrant
After the intervention, when the victim’s mother called the local police station to find out what happened to her son, she was told that he is dead.
She then yelled out to the officer at the other end of the line that she had recorded everything that happened with her cell phone. Several police officers arrived at her house shortly after.
- There was a policewoman, very nervous, similar to the one in the video who pinned Bartek to the ground together with the others - a person who was in the apartment during the officers' visit tells us.
- They started by telling the mother to testify as a witness and to choose whether she wants to testify at home or the police station. They also immediately demanded that she hand over the phone with the recording – says the person we spoke with. - The mother refused to testify. There was also a struggle with one of the women, Bartek's aunt. She had her hands twisted and her purse searched.
Did they write down the minutes of this interrogation and say that the mother did not want to testify? - we asked.
Did they show you the search warrant?
Did they write down a search report?
Did they inform you that you can file a complaint about the search?
Did they take your phone?
- Yes, but before that they allowed us to make a copy of the video.
Did they leave you a property seizure report?
- No. The policewoman just asked if we needed a receipt and wrote something on a piece of paper that they were taking the phone as evidence in the case. They also wrote a note of some kind for themselves.
Possible case of police misconduct
– What the flying f…ck!? – reacts an attorney from Wrocław when we describe to him what happened inside the victim’s house after the intervention.
- After all, these are all procedural activities. There must be a written record - remarks a retired criminal policeman. - Yes, in extraordinary situations, a police officer may conduct a search without a prosecutorial warrant. The prosecutor must then approve such action. But even then, a written record is necessary.
Who were the policemen who visited Bartek's family a few hours after his death? Did they come there on orders from their superiors? What was their task? Was the policewoman who participated in the intervention really with them? If so, who gave her permission to go there?
And further: Why didn't the police officers at Bartek's house do what they should have done if they wanted to question the witness and secure evidence – the video of the event? Or maybe it's not true? Maybe all the written records are filled out as they should be, with the signatures of the victim’s relatives?
And finally: if the officers acted according to the law, why did they allow the victim’s family to make a copy of the video? That's absurd. If they secured a phone with a recording, the first person allowed to look into it should be an expert who copies the file. And only the police investigators who prepare the inspection record can work on the copy. These are basic police procedures.
We wanted to talk to the chief of police in Lubin about all this, hoping he could confirm that everything was done according to procedures. But we were only referred to an official communiqué issued by the regional police department. There were no answers and nothing to clear up all the doubts.
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