Charges dropped against police over teen’s death in coronavirus check
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Charges dropped against police over teen’s death in coronavirus check

A poster denouncing the death of 19-year-old Adil in a fatal police chase sparked after he fled a coronavirus check. © Belga

All charges against two officers over the death of a Brussels teen in a fatal police chase during the coronavirus lockdown has been dropped and the case should be dismissed, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Brussels’ public prosecutor’s office said that a traffic expert’s investigation into the crash  yielded “no serious elements indicative of a criminal offence.”

Adil, a 19-year-old resident of the municipality of Anderlecht, died on 10 April after his moped collided head-on with a police vehicle he was fleeing away from to avoid a coronavirus check.

“The investigating judge did not consider it necessary to charge anyone in this case,” prosecutors said in a statement, adding that charges of involuntary manslaughter had been dismissed in the absence of sufficient evidence, “in particular against the driver of the police vehicle.”

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The prosecutor’s statement said that, at the time of the crash, the police vehicle was driving at a speed of around 17 kilometres per hour, while the moped’s speed was estimated at between 57.6 km/h et 70.4km/h.

The prosecutor’s statement on Thursday concludes the months-long investigation into the death of the Brussels teen at the start of Belgium’s lockdown, which sparked outrage and led to riots, fueling animosities between police and residents of disaffected Brussels neighbourhoods.

In the statement, prosecutors said that the officers decided to carry out a check on Adil and another teen after they were seen riding their mopeds at high speed around Anderlecht’s Place du Conseil.

Citing the traffic expert’s conclusions, the prosecutor’s office also said that the fact that Adil was not properly wearing a helmed was “not without influence on the dramatic consequences of this accident.”

News of the teen’s death in the thick of Belgium’s first coronavirus lockdown came amid warnings from community workers that youth living in some of the poorer areas of Brussels were bearing the brunt of fines for alleged coronavirus violations, while authorities gave a pass to banned gatherings organised by better-off segments of the population.

“The police are constantly issuing fines of €250 to young people who are already in a very difficult financial situation,” community worker Thomas Devos said in an interview with Bruzz, adding that the crisis was at times an excuse for police to “fine people just because they are standing or sitting somewhere.”

In the immediate aftermath of the crash, secretary of state for the Brussels-Capital Region, Pascal Smet, drew condemnation from police following a statement on social media in which he asked whether the situation justified police launching a high-speed police chase against two teens.

The case has earned visibility in the Belgian capital as residents display banners and spray the city walls with graffitis calling for Justice For Adil, with at least ten taken down after police, with the backing of the mayor of Anderlecht, order residents to take them down or risk a fine.

The teen’s death reemerged as the Black Lives Matter movement swept through Belgium this summer, with demonstrators backing calls for accountability in his death as well as those of 18-year-old Mehdi, who was run over and killed by a police vehicle he was fleeing from in 2019.

Prosecutors said that civil parties in Adil’s case may still request an additional investigation from examining magistrates if they consider that the file is incomplete and that it will be a court to decide, at an unspecified later date, whether to file any charges in the case or to shelve it.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times