Two police officers who shot dead a suspect in Rotterdam in 2013 have been found guilty of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter but will not face any punishment, judges in the port city said on Wednesday.
Mike Stok, 29, was shot in the back after a dispute with officials about not having his dog on a lead. The public prosecution department said earlier the police officers, whose identity has been kept secret, acted correctly in an emergency situation and refused to press charges.
Stok’s family, however, went to court to have the case reopened.
The two officers, one male and one female, were called to deal with an incident in the Charlois district of Rotterdam in April 2013. Stok had become embroiled in a heated dispute with two female wardens who wanted to fine him for not having his dog on a lead.
They called the police for back-up and the situation escalated. The police officers told the court that Stok, who had been drinking, went crazy and ran off waving what they thought was an axe. He refused to stop when ordered to do so and, believing he was a serious risk to the public, the police officers opened fire.
Eyewitnesses, including the two wardens, said Stok was aggressive and under the influence of alcohol.
The court ruled that the police officers were in a putative emergency situation, that is to say they believed that Stok posed a serious risk. The police officers could assume Stok was capable of injuring someone and were right to use violence against him, the court said.
Stok’s family said they are ‘extremely disappointed and angry’ about the ruling, which cannot be appealed, their lawyer told news agency ANP.
‘The court admits that the police officers made a wrong judgement about the risk but said this is allowable given the circumstances,’ Desiree de Jonge said. ‘That is an unusual way of reasoning.’
Last month, judges in Limburg ordered a police officer who shot at a man in a getaway car be jailed for two years. The court ruled the officer was not in an emergency situation when he drew his gun. The public prosecution department has already appealed against the sentence following the non-fatal shooting.
An investigation is also underway into the death of Aruban holidaymaker Mitch Henriquez in police custody last month.
Dutch police were involved in 33 serious shooting incidents last year, the public prosecution service said in February. In total, 31 people were injured and two died. They both committed suicide and were not hit by police bullets, the department said.
Last year was the first time in six years no one was killed by a police gun.
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