Cologne Police Officers Cleared of Murder Charges | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 27.06.2002
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Cologne Police Officers Cleared of Murder Charges

The Cologne policemen who have been accused of beating to death a 31-year-old man have been cleared of murder charges. Experts say the death was not caused by police brutality. But critics demand further investigation.


Cologne police officers are shocked by accusations of police brutality

The Cologne police issued a statement on Wednesday stating they were not responsible for the death of 31-year old Stefan N. The six police officers who had been accused of causing his death were cleared of the murder charge, but they are still being prosecuted for battery. Experts say the man’s death was caused by a serious medical condition and not the alleged beatings.

Stefan N. had been arrested for attacking a police officer during an escalated mass demonstration on May 11. According to eye witnesses, he was severely beaten by the six police officers now under investigation. Shortly after suffering the alleged physical abuse, Stefan N. fell into a coma and died two weeks later.

"The beatings the officers have been accused of did not cause the death of the victim," the Cologne state attorney and police spokesperson wrote in their statements. Medical experts at the coroner’s office confirmed that the death was not caused by physical abuse but by severe brain damage that occurred prior to the arrest. According to the police spokesperson and a number of eye witnesses, Stefan N. had been "aggressive and psychotic" for at least an hour before he was taken into police custody.

The police spokesperson further pointed out the victim’s aggressive behavior during the riot at the Cologne Eigelstein square was the result of a "serious psychological condition." Stefan N. had been suffering from depression for months prior to his arrest.

The victim’s mother says Stefan N. had previously suffered a fall out of a window, breaking both legs and having to undergo complicated surgery. At the time of the riot, he had not quite recovered from the accident.

To ease the pain caused by his injuries, Stefan N’s doctors prescribed a drug called "Marcumar". The drug had a negative effect on the patient’s mental health, leaving him in a state of manic depression. According to cardiologists at the Cologne polytechnic hospital, the medication might also have been responsible for the aggressive behavior shown prior to and during his arrest. "When they are injured, Marcumar patients suffer severe bleedings that affect the heart and often lead to a coma," the experts said.

The coroner’s report confirmed that the victim’s death was caused by internal bleedings. At the same time, the coroners allowed for the possibility that the alleged beatings as well as the stress inflicted on the patient had a negative effect on his medical condition and increased the likeliness of a coma.

Although the murder charge has been removed, all six officers still face charges for physical abuse. As Lars Schöler, the attorney for Stefan N’s family, said yesterday, "even if the battery charges are being dropped, further investigations will have to show if the stress that ultimately caused my client’s death was not caused by the accused officers in the first place."