Romani man killed by game warden in northeastern Hungary
02 April 1998
The Hungarian weekly news magazine HVG reported that on January 14, a game warden named István Katona shot and killed a Romani man named Árpád Balogh in the northeastern Hungarian village of Tunyogmatolcs in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County.
According to the article, „Árpád and his Romani friends” were returning from fishing when they were met by Mr Katona and another game warden named Lajos Szabó. According to the brother of the victim, Mr Gyula Balogh, an eyewitness to the shooting, Mr Katona shot Árpád from a distance of 34 metres when the two groups met on a small path near the Szamos river. The shooting was, according to Mr Balogh, not preceded by any dialogue or provocation whatsoever. According to Katona, the rifle went off by accident after the victim suddenly grabbed the barrel of the gun and made a threatening move towards him, causing him to slip. HVG writes that two non-Romani locals, Mrs Magdolna Tabányi and her son Pál Kohári, both of whom are neighbours of the Balogh family, allegedly saw the two guards walking towards the river. Mrs Tabányi states that Katona held his rifle in front of him as if ready to shoot.
The first police officer to arrive at the scene was an off-duty local policeman. According to HVG, the Roma had to ask the policeman to handcuff Mr Katona three times before he finally did so. Mrs Tabányi told HVG that she heard Katona’s father making anti-Romani statements in the past. According to the family of the victim, they had had an argument with Katona two or three years ago, and he had subsequently attempted to shoot the Balogh’s dog in their yard, where the Balogh children were playing. Katona’s gun license was reportedly revoked for some time following the incident.
According to the Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI), a first round of investigation was completed on February 27, and police investigators staged a reconstruction of the event on March 4. Forensic experts have determined that Mr Balogh was shot from a distance of half a metre. Mr Katona has been placed in detention.
(ERRC, HVG, NEKI)