Romani Youth Dies in Unclear Circumstances During Police Pursuit in Hungary
16 December 2004
According to the Budapest-based Roma Press Center (RSK) of August 2, 2004, forensic examinations were underway to determine the cause of death of 19-year-old Mr Jakub Richárd, a Romani male, who died while being chased by three police officers in the central Hungarian town of Kecskemét early on the evening of July 25, 2004. On the day of the incident, the officers reportedly spotted Mr Richárd, for whom an outstanding arrest warrant existed, outside a grocery store in Kecskemét and a chase ensued. One of the officers caught Mr Richárd and pinned him to the ground, faced-down, pressing down on his back with his knee. Mr Richárd died on the ground. Upon hearing of Mr Richárd's death, several family members gathered at the scene, surrounding his body and refusing to allow police to remove him.
Mr Richárd's body was eventually taken away for examination. The RSK reported that according to the preliminary expert report of the Budapest Central Police Station, Mr Richárd died as a result of a pre-existing heart condition, exacerbated by the physical and psychological stress of the chase. Mr Richárd's family denies that he had a heart condition. However, the RSK reported that several pieces of information have arisen that cast doubt on the truth of the initial police findings. Reportedly, Mr Richárd sustained injuries to his windpipe, had sand in his throat and two decilitres of serous liquid had amassed in his brain. Ms Anita Hajnal, witness to the coroner's examination for the authorities, was quoted in an RSK report of August 10 as having stated that, "[…] his face, neck and head were read while his mouth was totally blackened. I saw bruises above his left eye and scarfskin injuries on his right leg. There was also one bruise on the middle of his back which was obviously caused by the policeman who kneeled on his back". Ms Hajnal had also reportedly witnessed the struggle between Mr Richárd and the officer. Mr István Farkas, another witness to the death, testified to the RSK that the morning after Mr Richárd's death the site had been ploughed over.
The RSK also reported that several of Mr Richárd's family members had received racist hate letters from an anonymous author, postmarked from Miskolc. The letters reportedly stated, "Roma should not be breeding, but should be deported from Hungary". On August 19, the RSK reported that the final forensic analysis confirmed the findings of the preliminary analysis. The officers involved in the death of Mr Richárd remained on duty as of the same date. The family was reportedly considering legal action in the case but, as of October 5, 2004, the ERRC was unaware of any actions taken by the family.