Coronavirus: tensions soar over teen’s death in police check
Share article:
Share article:

Coronavirus: tensions soar over teen’s death in police check

Credit: Belga

A police decision to engage in a car chase in which a Brussels teen was killed certainly warrants some questioning, a member of Brussels’ executive cabinet said, prompting backlash from police unions.

Brussels Secretary of State Pascal Smet took to social media to say there were “certainly a number of questions to ask” after a 19-year-old, identified as Adil, died when his scooter collided head-on with a police vehicle as he attempted to flee a police check.

“Adil, I don’t think I have met him. But those who knew him said he was a friendly and serviceable young man. He has now been robbed of a future, not because of the coronavirus, but because a police control got out of hand,” Smet wrote.

Prosecutors said the chase began when officers with the Brussels-Midi police zone moved to carry out a check on two teens onboard scooters in Place du Conseil in the municipality of Anderlecht, which prompted the 19-year-old to take flight.

“Why did he flee the police check? Was [the check] really the absolute priority on that night?” Smet wrote, further wondering whether another approach could have been found.

While Smet condemned the riots that erupted on Saturday, as protesters lashed out at police over the deadly crash, he said the incident could suggest a lack of community engagement from police.

“Despite all their statements regarding their proximity [with the local community], [the police officers] probably didn’t know [Adil’s] name,” Smet wrote.

“And when dozens of young people lash out and attack police, there is definitely something serious there,” he said, citing “a breach of trust, defiance, incomprehension” and even hatred “coming from both sides.”

Police unions demand apology

During the riots on Saturday, protesters pelted police with rocks and a service weapon was reportedly stolen, an incident under investigation by police.

Throughout the weekend, messages from the victim’s family were posted on social media, in which they urged for calm and respect as they grieved their loss.

Smet’s message drew outrage from police unions, who said the former regional minister should hold off from commenting on the event.

“Well, Mr. Smet, you say you didn’t know Adil. Wouldn’t it be better to refrain from making any comments?” Vincent Houssin, spokesman for the SLPF/VSOA police union said, De Standaard reports.

“You say police could have done it differently. Unfortunately, you were not around at the time, yet you make a judgement about the police’s reaction.”

On Monday, the ACOD LRB police union also came out against Smet’s comments and demanded an apology from the secretary of state, saying the only conclusions to be drawn from his statements was that the police was responsible for the death of Adil.

“Dear Secretary of State, the best thing you can do is to apologise to police officers, but also to the family of Adil, whose death you are using to drag police through the mud,” the union wrote, Belga news agency reports.

Police say no racial profiling

Following the incident, the head of the Brussels-Midi police zone said that the deadly incident on Friday was terrible but that a chase could not have been avoided.

“When someone tries to bypass a control, we must act decisively,” Chief of Corps Patrick Evenepoel said, adding that it was “absolutely out of the question” that ethnic or racial profiling could have played a role in the police officer’s decision to check the two teenagers.

On Sunday, Thomas Devos, a social worker active in the neighbourhood said that Adil’s death stirred feelings of resentment and insecurity within the local community, where he said Adil occasionally did voluntary work.

In statements to Bruzz, Devos said that despite being among protesters when police charged, he remained “safe.”

“It is surprising how as a white man you can look [charging police officers] straight in the eye, and then see them pass you by. I do not meet the rioter profile. Safe. My companions, although they had nothing to do with the riots, hid in the gym. They have matched the profile for years,” Devos said.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

Latest news

European Council: Decisions on Covid-19 and energy and debate on other issues
At the two-days summit which ended on Friday, the European Council adopted conclusions on COVID-19, digital, energy prices, migration, trade and ...
Flanders ‘water bomb’ could cause €2 billion in damages and affect thousands
The next "water bomb" or heavy rainfall over Flanders could cause damages estimated at around €2 billion, and could affect up to 100,000 people in ...
Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine 90% effective in 5 to 11-year-olds
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 90.7% effective in preventing symptomatic forms of the coronavirus in children aged five to 11, Pfizer announced on ...
Belgian airport named best for cargo in Europe
Brussels Airport has been named the best airport in Europe in a 2021 roundup of the best cargo airports across the world. The Asian Freight, ...
NASA plans first return mission to Moon in February 2022
The United States space agency, NASA, has announced that it will be aiming to launch its first, uncrewed mission to the moon, Artemis 1, in February ...
New, reportedly more contagious Delta mutation being monitored
A new mutation of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which is reported to be more contagious, is being monitored by health authorities in the ...
Angèle releases new single: ‘Bruxelles je t’aime’
Belgian singer Angèle has unveiled her latest song ahead of the release of her new album, due later this year. 'Bruxelles je t'aime' (Brussels I ...
23 million chickens and 1.7 million pigs: Climate experts call for livestock cut
Flander's livestock needs to be drastically cut to save the climate and reach the emission reduction targets, according to the latest advice from the ...
Vaccination uptake surges in Wallonia following CST announcement
The number of people getting vaccinated against the coronavirus increased fourfold in Wallonia after it was announced that the Covid Safe Ticket ...
Guilty by association
BRUSSELS BEHIND THE SCENES Weekly analysis and untold stories With SAM MORGAN Other Brussels behind the scenes stories: Brussels' bid to make ...
Health minister supports use of Covid Safe Ticket in workplace
As the use of the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) has been expanded in Brussels and is set to in Wallonia, federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke has ...
Maggots show Conings may have lived longer following disappearance
Former army soldier Jürgen Conings, whose disappearance in mid-May resulted in a month-long manhunt, may have been alive for longer than has been ...