The death of a 29-year-old man in Antwerp will be the focus of a judicial investigation, following accusations of excessive force from witnesses to the man's arrest.
Footage of the arrest in the district near Antwerp station shows a man lying on the ground and being restrained by two police officers. The caption in the images says that the police suffocated the man. This, however, is not shown on the images.
Trending on Twitter with #MurderInAntwerp - the video was shot by a witness has been widely shared on social media. "A friend of mine made the video," the woman who shared the footage on Twitter explained. "After he stopped filming, two more police cars arrived, then it got more intense, he says. According to my friend, the man received a face mask, which had blood on it according to my friend. When they put him on a stretcher, he seemed lifeless."
— DINA (@tagsathh) July 19, 2020
The man was operated on Sunday afternoon for the first time in Middelheim Hospital and was then transferred to the intensive care unit, where he died later that evening.
"The man was resuscitated in the ambulance for twenty minutes and was taken to hospital in critical condition," police spokesperson Sven Lommaert told Het Nieuwsblad on Sunday evening.
According to the police, the officers were called because the man was causing a disturbance on the terrace of a cafe close to the station.
"He attacked people, threw furniture and fell on the floor," said Lommaert. Witnesses told the police that they had seen that the man had put something in his own drink and then ingested it. "That confirms the idea that he was under the influence. This will be investigated further," he said.
"Our people handcuffed the man to the ground, and crossed his legs because he kept kicking around. They noticed that he had a cut on the head and was bleeding from his mouth," Lommaert said. "When the ambulance arrived, the man had indeed lost consciousness and had to be resuscitated for a long time," he added. Later on Sunday evening came the confirmation of his death.
After studying the footage of security cameras in the neighbourhood, the police's initial conclusion is that the force that was used was "proportional," according to Lommaert.
Both the violent behaviour of the man and the police arrest will be investigated by the Public Prosecutor's Office. They will also investigate whether the man died as a result of drug use, or other factors. The glass the man was seen drinking from, was also confiscated for analysis by the lab. On Monday afternoon, the Public Prosecutor is expected to give a statement with further information.
On social media, calls for protest have been launched.
The Brussels Times