"Disturbed" man apparently punched by cop died in custody: Prosecutor

File photo showing a police arrestPicture: Wikimedia Commons/Lionel Allorge

An autopsy was scheduled to determine what killed a 39-year-old Den Haag man who appeared to be repeatedly punched when police tried to apprehend him, prosecutors said Friday evening. Paul Selier, a father of two children living in The Hague, was identified in media reports as the victim.

Video of the incident obtained by broadcaster Omroep West and viewable below this article seemed to show one police officer punching the man eight times in a 35-second period. An officer can be heard yelling "Cooperate, damn it!" in Dutch to the suspect. The investigative arm of the Public Prosecutor's office has opened an inquest into the Friday morning incident, and confirmed that the video does show a portion of the event.

It started at about 6 a.m. when police received a call about a "disturbed" man on a public road in Waddinxveen, the prosecutor's office said in a statement. From there, the timeline is vague, with the prosecutor saying that an ambulance was eventually requested. No time of death was given, and investigators will wait for the autopsy results before revealing a cause of death or saying if a crime is suspected.

"How and what exactly happened is being investigated at this time," the statement reads.

The person who shot the video was reportedly a motorist passing by the area. The prosecutor asked any witnesses to the scene to contact investigators from the Rijksrecherche office.

Disturbed individuals and Dutch policing

Only about 30 percent of people police call "disturbed" actually have a mental disorder making the term "disturbed" a somewhat controversial choice, researcher Bauke Koekkoek of health service GGZ Nederland said early last year. It includes a wide range of people that mainly accounts to anyone acting somewhat abnormally ever since a crime statistics reporting change in 2011. Some of those considered to be disturbed include drug addicts, elderly people with dementia, people suffering from a sudden shock or trauma, and those with mental disabilities.

Last December, police chief Erik Akerboom said he wanted a mental health expert on call in every Dutch neighborhood, because of the increasing cases police are required to respond when a mentally troubled person is in distress. "In prevention, the strings seem to be unraveling and institutions have been reduced. It would be good if there was a mental health worker in every district, because we are that now", he told AD, adding that the national government needs to better fund mental health care.

Police responded to 75,000 calls related to a "disturbed" individual in 2016 alone.

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