Dutch cops charged with manslaughter over black man's death in #BLM-like case
Prosecutors on Monday charged two of the five police officers who conducted the violent arrest of Mitch Henriquez. The 42-year-old native of the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba was visiting relatives in The Hague at the time of the incident, in June 2015.
Henriquez was arrested at a music festival in Zuiderpark in The Hague after he was heard shouting he had a weapon. Henriquez allegedly resisted arrest after being approached by officers, who resorted to knocking him to the ground and using a chokehold to restrain him. According to bystanders and Henriquez’s family, police also beat him.
He died in a hospital the next day, and an autopsy on his body later showed that the likely cause of death was suffocation due to a crushed larynx following the chokehold. Henriquez was found not to be carrying any weapons.
Investigators from the Dutch Inspectorate for Security and Justice initially acknowledged that the officers acted correctly in deciding to arrest Henriquez, as he was disturbing public order. They then tried to determine whether the way he was arrested was appropriate and complied with the requirements for police when using force on detainees.
After over a year of investigations, authorities on Monday released a damning report of the case, stating that the “heavy-handed use of force against Henriquez” was “disproportionate, excessive and improper,” as cited by RTL Netherland broadcaster.
The scientists behind the report state that officers made “error after error” in the incident, resorting to violent force too quickly, attacking the victim en masse, using a severe form of chokehold and being late to administer medical assistance. Police officers were also found to have used pepper spray incorrectly, as it was rubbed into the victim’s face instead of being sprayed from a distance, as the rules state.
According to the report, Henriquez was pushed and hit with batons in his Achilles tendon before he was forced to the ground. By the time he was cuffed, Henriquez was no longer moving, but instead of calling an ambulance, officers carried him to the police van and drove to the local police station. At the station Henriquez had no heartbeat, but was resuscitated and moved to a hospital, where he ultimately died.
The prosecution believes that the officers were required to attempt other ways to bring Henriquez under control.
Three other officers present at the scene have not been charged, and it was found they had not contributed to Henriquez’s death. They also allegedly urged their colleagues not to resort to violence. The officers have, however, been suspended from service.
Henriquez’s death caused outrage among the Dutch public, prompting mass protests outside the Zuiderpark police headquarters and weeks of civil unrest in The Hague, with the demonstrations echoing sentiments expressed by the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality in the US. Hundreds took part and dozens of arrests were made. Protests also took place in June this year, marking one year since the incident.
The death and subsequent investigation also led to questions over the use of chokeholds in Dutch police practice. Dutch authorities say they will not ban the chokehold as a method of restraining people during arrests, although they do question the use of the most severe forms of the neck grab, when a person’s throat is forced closed, public broadcaster NOS reported, citing sources in the Dutch Inspectorate.