Appeal court clears one police officer in Mitch Henriquez death case

Statue of justice.
Statue of justice.

Appeal court judges have upheld the six-month suspended sentences against one of the two police officers who were held responsible for the death of Aruban national Mitch Henriquez, but cleared the other of all charges.

The 42-year-old died a day after being pinned to the ground by five officers as he left a concert at the Zuiderpark in The Hague in July 2015. The city’s district court ruled in December 2017 that the choke hold used during his arrest was likely to have contributed to his death and found the two officers guilty of assault.

The appeal court has now cleared one of the two officers but said the violence used by one officer was ‘out of all proportion’. In particular, the choke hold used to subdue Henriquez was ‘an unmissable link’ in his death, the court said.

The original trial found that the prolonged use of the choke hold by one of the officers and the use of pepper spray by the other as he punched Henriquez in the face were unlawful. Officers said they had reacted to a claim by Henriquez that he was carrying a gun.

All five officers involved in the arrest were internally disciplined by the police but none has been dismissed.

Video footage of the scene showed the 42-year-old being restrained using a choke hold before his motionless body was bundled into a police van.

His death triggered several nights of rioting in The Hague’s Schilderswijk district, where there has been a history of tension between the police and the large minority ethnic population.

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