Brussels: The government has reacted with shock to released images of a fatal 2018 police intervention in which a Slovak man died after he was put in detention. Pictures show an officer sitting on his chest while the man was in distress.
“This is unseemly and totally shocking,'' Justice Minister Koen Geens told VTM the network about the images released on Wednesday.
Interior Minister Pieter De Crem said that “it is something out of all proportion. The circumstances need to be clarified and an investigation is ongoing.''
The Slovak man, Jozef Chovanec, had been denied boarding a plane after he did not show a ticket and was disruptive. In the detention room, the security video shows him repeatedly banging his head against the wall. Once officers came in, they put him on a bed and forcefully restricted his movements, with one officer sitting on him for a long time. Another officer made an apparent Nazi salute during the incident.
Chovanec's widow complained to Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper, which first published the video Wednesday, that the officers should have cared more about his urgent health needs since he was obviously in distress and needed to breathe. Chovanec died after emergency health officials took him to a hospital.
Chovanec's widow says the investigation is taking too long, but Geens said the probe faced delays because of the pandemic and because the defense asked for more investigative actions to be taken.
The issue has gained extra prominence after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Four former Minneapolis police officers were charged after Floyd, a handcuffed Black man, died after an officer pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes on May 25 as Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe.