Romanian Police Shoot Two Romani Men

29 October 2003

On April 4, 2003, at around 4:00 PM, police officers in civilian clothing shot two Romani men - 24-year-old Mr Leonard Drugu and 32-year-old Mr Aurel Gândac - on a street in Iaşi in northeastern Romania, according to ERRC field research, conducted in partnership with the Cluj-based Romani organisation Resource Center for Roma Communities (RCRC). According to the Iaşi-based daily newspaper Ziarul de Iaşi of April 5, 2003, two police officers had been tracking five Roma, including three minors, suspected of theft on the day in question. The officers reportedly caught the Roma in the act of breaking into a car with a crowbar and stealing the car's audio cassette player. The daily stated that one of the officers shouted, "Stop or I'll shoot", but the Roma attempted to run away. At this point, according to the daily, the officer fired a warning shot in the air and, when the Roma did not stop, fired one shot each at Mr Drugu and Mr Gândac, hitting them in the left leg and the back, respectively. The three minors - 13-year-old Florin Drugu, 13-year-old Florin Lăcustă (Mr Gândac's son) and 12-year-old Nelu Hristache - were caught by police less than one hour later, according to Ziarul de Iaşi. The daily quoted Mr Vasile Huma, Deputy Chief of the Iaşi County Police Department, as having stated, "We have started a war against car thieves. We want all thieves to know that we will always take actions similar to those of today when necessary." Article 9 of the United Nation's Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials states, "Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life." According to Article 10 of the United Nation's Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, "In the circumstances provided for under principle 9, law enforcement officials shall identify themselves as such and give a clear warning of their intent to use firearms, with sufficient time for the warning to be observed, unless to do so would unduly place the law enforcement officials at risk or would create a risk of death or serious harm to other persons, or would be clearly inappropriate or pointless in the circumstances of the incident."

ERRC/RCRC documentation, however, revealed a completely different version of events. On April 9, 2003, the ERRC/RCRC visited the Emergency Hospital in Iaşi, where Mr Drugu and Mr Gândac were being treated. The officer-on-duty at Mr Drugu's room refused entrance to the ERRC/RCRC, stating that Iaşi's Police Station 4 had to give advance written permission. The ERRC/RCRC heard Mr Drugu ask to meet the ERRC/RCRC representative, but the officer told him to be quiet and threatened, "I give you my word that I will shoot you again." Next, the ERRC/RCRC visited the room of Mr Gândac and, after some time, was granted entrance by the officer-on-duty. Mr Gândac testified to the ERRC/RCRC that he and Mr Drugu had been at Mr Drugu's mother's house before the shooting took place. According to Mr Gândac, they went out onto the street and Florin Drugu, Florin Lăcustă and Nelu Hristache, who had stolen an audio cassette player from a car, ran behind them because two men had shouted at them to stop. At this point, the two men shouted at him and Mr Drugu to lie on the ground. Mr Gândac stated that the men, who were in civilian clothing, did not identify themselves as police officers, so he did not lie down and instead turned to walk away. Without warning, according to Mr Gândac, one of the men shot him in the back. At this point, the officer-on-duty entered the hospital room and ended the interview.

On April 19, 2003, the ERRC/RCRC interviewed Mr Drugu, who had been released from the hospital the day before. Mr Drugu testified that at around 4:00 PM, he and Mr Gândac left his mother's house and ran into the three boys on the street. At this point, according to Mr Drugu, two men told Mr Gândac and him to lie on the ground. Mr Drugu testified that he turned to cross the street and without a verbal warning or a warning shot, one of the men, who had not identified themselves as police officers, shot him in the left leg. Mr Drugu fell to the ground and one of the men placed handcuffs on his wrists. The other man held his head on the ground with his boot and kicked him repeatedly with his other foot, according to Mr Drugu. Mr Drugu reported that after some time, a police car arrived and he was placed inside. The officers drove Mr Drugu to the Emergency Hospital, beating him in the car along the way. PrinĹŁesa Apostol, Mr Drugu's 9-year-old sister and witness to the event, testified to the ERRC/RCRC that Mr Drugu was crying in the car and begging the officers not to kill him. At the hospital, Mr Drugu reported that he underwent a five-hour surgery due to his gunshot wound which resulted in a blocked kidney. Upon release from the hospital, Mr Drugu stayed with his aunt, Ms Giurgiuveaua Neagu, a 63-year-old Romani woman, because he required permanent care.

Ms Maradia Gândac, Mr Gândac's wife, testified to the ERRC/RCRC that the officers left Mr Gândac lying wounded in the street. A cab was called and Ms Gândac accompanied her husband to the Emergency Hospital, where they met approximately fifty masked police officers at the outer gate who barred their entry to the hospital grounds. According to Ms Gândac, the officers insisted that only one man had been shot that day. Mr Gândac reportedly got out of the taxi and began crawling on the street; Ms Gândac asserted that a doctor eventually spotted Mr Gândac and took him into the hospital. Ms Neagu testified to the ERRC/RCRC that when she heard that her nephew had been shot, she immediately went to the hospital with another Romani woman from the area. Ms Neagu stated that the officers would not allow the two to enter the hospital grounds and hit them with truncheons in order to chase them away. Ms Gândac also testified that according to her son, Florin Lăcustă, officers at the police station placed guns to his head and those of Florin Drugu and Nelu Hristache, then beat them in an effort to force them to confess that Mr Drugu and Mr Gândac had been with them when they stole the cassette player. The three boys were then placed in a Juvenile Detention Centre. Ms Gândac also reported that, according to her son, police officers had picked the three boys up two weeks earlier at around 11:30 PM as they were walking home from an Internet café and hit their heads against a wall to try to force the boys to admit to a theft. As of April 23, 2003, the three boys had been released from the Juvenile Detention Centre.

As of May 8, 2003, Mr Drugu and Mr Gândac had retained lawyers, but had not filed any complaints against the officers. Mr Drugu's attorney, Mr Bogdan Luca, informed the ERRC that Mr Drugu and Mr Gândac were under criminal investigation for intentionally convincing, facilitating, or assisting a person to commit a crime. As of May 8, 2003 Mr Gândac remained in the hospital. The ERRC was unable to obtain further information in the case. Further information on instances of police brutality towards Roma in Romania is available on the ERRC's Internet website at:

(ERRC, RCRC, Ziarul de Iaşi)


Challenge discrimination, promote equality


Receive our public announcements Receive our Roma Rights Journal


The latest Roma Rights news and content online

join us

Find out how you can join or support our activities