Roma teenager shot by police in Greece’s Thessaloniki dies

The 16-year-old boy’s shooting last week led to days of protests in Thessaloniki, Athens and other parts of Greece.

A woman reacts as she holds a photo of an injured 16-year-old teenager while relatives and other protesters from the Roma community protest outside the courthouse in Greece's second largest city of Thessaloniki
A woman reacts as she holds a photo of a 16-year-old boy shot by the police while relatives and others from the Roma community protest outside the courthouse in Thessaloniki [File: Giannis Papanikos/AP]

A teenage boy from Greece’s Roma community who was shot in the head during a police chase over an allegedly unpaid petrol station bill has died, according to members of the Roma community and the hospital that was treating him.

The 16-year-old had been hospitalised for more than a week in the northern city of Thessaloniki after he was shot in the early hours of December 5 by a police officer on a motorcycle.

Officers were chasing the boy after he allegedly filled up his pick-up truck at a petrol station and left without paying the 20-euro ($21) bill.

The shooting led to days of often violent protests in Thessaloniki, Athens and other parts of Greece by members of the Roma community, despite pleas by community officials and some members of the boy’s family to maintain calm.

“Everyone here is crying. It is unjust for a child to leave like this,” said Antonis Tasios, secretary of the Roma community where the boy lived, confirming his death on Tuesday. “We have great pain.”

The hospital treating the boy, who has not been formally identified, said he was hospitalised in critical condition in the intensive care unit after undergoing emergency surgery, but that despite all efforts by medical staff, he died on Tuesday morning.

Racist motives

The Roma community has denounced the shooting as having racist motives.

Several Roma men were injured or fatally shot in recent years while allegedly seeking to evade arrest for breaches of the law.

Members of the Roma community in Greece have long faced discrimination, and many live on the margins of society.

The 34-year-old police officer accused of firing the shot has been suspended and under house arrest since Friday pending a court decision on whether to remand him into custody before trial in a felony count of attempted manslaughter with possible intent and a misdemeanour count of illegally firing his weapon.

Police have said the teenager tried to ram the police motorcycles involved in the chase with his pick-up truck.

The officer said during an initial court appearance last week that he had fired his weapon because he feared for the lives of his colleagues.

Citizens’ Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos, who has jurisdiction over Greek police, tweeted his “deep sorrow for the death of the 16-year-old boy” and extended his condolences to the teenager’s family.

“I repeat that this case is being investigated by the judicial system, which is the only one competent to assess the facts and judge responsibilities,” the minister wrote. “Let us all respect that.”

Source: News Agencies