Cops face prison in fatal chokehold arrest appeal
On Monday the Public Prosecutor demanded 6 months in prison against two police officers who the Prosecutor believes payed a culpable role in the arrest of Mitch Henriquez, and his subsequent death. The Prosecutor also wants the two officers to be suspended from the police force for two years, NU.nl reports.
The two officers, called DH01 and DH02 to protect their identity, were previously convicted of assault with death as a result. The court then gave them conditionally suspended prison sentences of six months. The police officers appealed.
When this case was first tried, the Public Prosecutor demanded no punishment against the police officers. That changed in the appeal because the Public Prosecutor now sees a connection between the man's death and the violence used by the police officers during his arrest, according to the newspaper. This "turnaround", the Prosecutor said on Monday, has to do with "progressive insight and a report by Wilma Duijst".
Duijst is a professor of forensic medicine and health criminal law at Maastricht University. At the Public Prosecutor's request, she wrote a report on so-called acute stress syndrome, which the Prosecutor designated as Henriquez's cause of death during the first trial. According to Duijst, there is no such thing as acute stress syndrome in medical science. Stress-related death exists, but it is not a cause of death.
In the appeal case too the Prosecutor said that the cause of Henriquez's death can not be determined with certainty. "But in the case of DH01, we do consider assault with death as result as proven", the Prosecutor said. DH01 put Henriquez in a chokehold. "The chokehold was an indispensable link in the chain of events that led to the death of Henriquez", the Prosecutor said.
DH01 said that he did not use force while applying the chokehold. But the Prosecutor considers this unlikely, referring to the injuries found on the man's neck. "We have no doubt about a factual and legal causality between the force the police applied in Henriquez's arrest and his death", the Prosecutor said.
DH02 was in charge of the arrest as the group commander. The officer used violence and rubbed pepper spray into Henriquez's face, according to the Prosecutor. "Violence that contributed to Henriquez's panic", the Prosecutor said. "He also had insight into the violence applied by DH01 and that is why this officer can also be considered an accomplice and blamed for the death of Henriquez."
Henriquez was arrested during a music festival in Zuiderpark in The Hague on 27 June 2015. He shouted several times at the police that he had a weapon, while grabbing his crotch. A total of five police officers were involved in the 42-year-old Aruban man's arrest. Henriquez resisted arrest and the officers used violence against him. He later died in hospital. Two police officers were eventually prosecuted for his death.
"A justified arrest of a drunk man who made annoying jokes, but it should have been a normal arrest", the Public Prosecutor said in court on Monday. "But the arrest was far from normal and Henriquez did not deserve that."