Ibrahima Barrie, the 23-year-old man who died after being taken into custody by police on Saturday evening, died of a heart attack, according to the results of an autopsy revealed by the lawyer for the family.
In addition, Alexis Deswaef said, the post mortem exam had revealed no trace of drugs in the man’s body. Barrie was outside the North station in Brussels on Saturday when a police patrol arrived to carry out a Covid-19 check on a gathering of people. Barrie fled on foot, but was later arrested and taken to the nearest police station at Place Liedts in Schaerbeek.
There, shortly after arriving, he lost consciousness and was taken by emergency services to hospital, where he died soon after.
The incident, one of a number in which people arrested by police have died, led to riots on the streets on Wednesday, when a peaceful demonstration broke down and clashes ensued. The police station was set on fire.
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According to Deswaef, the toxicological test that was part of the autopsy was negative for drugs, but the heart failure by itself remains a mystery. Barrie had indeed run away from police prior to being caught, but he was at the same time young and fit, and known to be a good footballer.
“The family saw bruises on the body in the morgue, but there is nothing to suggest that this could not be related to the autopsy or resuscitation efforts,” he said.
In any case, he said, the police action may not have been legally justified. Ibrahima, Deswaef said, had not been part of the group by the station, but had been filming the police action perfectly legally when police came for him.
“This is a citizen exercising his right to film the police,” he said. “If he was doing that, it could be because the intervention was not properly carried out. That is something the investigation must show.”
The fact that he fled is not in itself evidence he was doing anything wrong, Deswaef said.
“If you say he ran away from a police check, you forget he didn't need to be checked in the first place. I can understand that some young people flee when they see the police.”
The prosecutor’s office in Brussels has opened an investigation into accidental death.
The Brussels Times