A year ago, 19-year-old Aman Alizada was shot dead by a police officer in Stade. The investigation was discontinued. There is a lot of criticism about this.
Doubts about the police’s version of events: last October, around 200 people demonstrated in Stade Photo: Miguel Ferraz
When Aman Alizada died on August 17, 2019, he was just 19 years old. That evening, police were called to the shelter for refugees in Stade-Butzfleth where he lived. By the end of the operation, Alizada was dead. A police officer had shot him five times.
That was a year ago now. The death of the young man attracted a lot of attention. From the beginning, the question was why the police officers on the scene reacted the way they did, whether they were overwhelmed, why someone shot Alizada. At a demonstration in October, about 200 people had demanded clarification, including the Refugee Council of Lower Saxony.
For many, the fact that the policeman who had shot was quickly back on duty was not a good omen for an open investigation. The policeman who had fired was being investigated on suspicion of manslaughter. In mid-June, the public prosecutor’s office in Stade came to the conclusion that the shooting was self-defense. There was to be no further investigation and no indictment.
However, there is massive criticism of this from many sides. One of these sides is the lawyer of Aman Alizada’s brother. He has filed a complaint against the discontinuation of the investigation, demanding that it be reopened and that the police officer be charged with manslaughter.
Alizada had fled Afghanistan alone when he was 15 years old. He belonged to the Hazara minority and was seeking protection from persecution. For the first two years in Germany, he lived with 70 other minors in a gymnasium. Shortly before his 18th birthday, his asylum application was rejected. He had psychological problems. Because he was picked up with a knife and allegedly thought he was God, he was temporarily placed in a closed psychiatric ward. He is said to have shown signs of schizophrenia.
No self-defense situation?
Then on August 17, 2019, his mental condition apparently deteriorated again. From the complaint of the lawyer, which is available to the taz, it appears that a roommate said in his interrogation that Alizada had asked him to leave the house. He wanted to break everything. Alizada had a pole, with which he always made fitness, in his hand. The roommate got scared, called the police and left the house. The policemen obviously knew who they would meet, they came in fours. Alizada was known because of his previous history.
Alizada is said to have been alone in a room on the first floor, according to the letter from the prosecutor’s office explaining why no charges are being brought. According to the letter, Alizada did not respond to the request to leave the house and put down the pole. The police officers would have used pepper spray. Then Alizada allegedly went with the bar towards the policemen, who were in the house in the meantime, whereupon one of them shot. Five times. The public prosecutor’s office writes of an attack, a dangerous situation – and self-defense. The only witnesses are police officers.
Thomas Bliwier, the lawyer of Aman Alizada’s brother, has serious doubts about the self-defense situation described by the prosecution and about the fact that Alizada attacked the police officers. According to him, there is no objective evidence for this, none of the witnesses can give information about Alizada’s behavior before the shooting, he writes. Two police officers who were in front of the house could not see the situation and one officer in the building took cover.
Instead, according to Bliwier’s complaint, the results of an expert report that reconstructed the shooting actually rule out an attack. According to the report, the bullet holes "indicate that a firearm was also in an elevated position relative to the victim at the time the shots were fired in the case of persons sitting upright, standing or moving." Alizada had therefore been lying, sitting or bending down when he was shot at and thus could not have attacked anyone, the lawyer concludes.
Ingrid Smerdka-Arhelger, Citizens’ Initiative for Human Dignity
"The impression is created: they don’t want to look at all and work it up. There should be no hint of doubt at all."
He accuses not only the public prosecutor’s office of having faded out this and other things, but also raises serious accusations against the police officers. Because when they arrived on the scene, there was no danger to third parties, no one was in the house. Instead of waiting and, if necessary, calling in interpreters or psychiatric or psychological personnel, the officers escalated the situation for no reason.
The door was locked
Pictures from the scene showed that the door to the room was locked and that the police officers had apparently kicked it in. In doing so, they had first created a situation in which the police officer, who then fired, thought he could resort to self-defense. "He himself created a situation in which he was supposedly ‘forced’ to use irritant gas and to make lethal use of his service weapon," the lawyer writes.
Criminologist Thomas Feltes also says there was no self-defense. He says the case must be resolved in court. Feltes repeatedly points out that most victims of fatal police shootings are mentally ill people. Alizada’s killing is a typical case of mishandling mentally ill people, he says.
"Police officers should know that mentally ill people react appropriately when they are put under pressure – whether it’s through the use of pepper spray or simply walking on them." The problem, he says, is that police officers* are trained to resolve situations as quickly as possible, rather than waiting or calming a situation. Feltes says it’s not enough for police officers to learn about dealing with the mentally ill in training if they’re only confronted with it 10 years later.
"There needs to be structured training and a clear statement from police leadership requiring officers to wait, secure the situation and call a psychologist or the SEK if they suspect a mental illness," Feltes says. The SEK is capable of arresting someone without shooting them, he added.
Greens call for independent investigation
So why didn’t the police in Stade call for help? Why did they think they had to move so quickly, even though Alizada was alone in a room? These and other questions remain unanswered for many people in Stade. And that is why many, like the lawyer, are demanding that the case not be closed.
Thus it is said from the district association Stade of the Greens that it cannot be that the executive absolves itself in this case with so many open questions. The board demands an independent investigation and assessment of the case. "Anything else would severely damage confidence in the police, the public prosecutor’s office, and indeed in our state and our legal system."
Ingrid Smerdka-Arhelger of the Citizens’ Initiative for Human Dignity also calls the arguments of the public prosecutor’s office that led to the discontinuation of the investigation scandalous. The citizens’ initiative has been campaigning for refugees in the Stade district for years and has also followed the case of Aman Alizada. "It gives the impression: they don’t want to look at all and work it up," says Smerdka-Arhelger to the taz. "There should be no hint of doubt at all."
Volunteers on the ground, they say, say that the young people who knew Alizada were traumatized and could hardly talk about what had happened. The Stade police have also made no effort whatsoever to work through what happened with the young people.
The Stade police, on the other hand, do not want to comment on the case at all when asked by the taz, as it is now with the Celle public prosecutor’s office. This must decide on the complaint of the lawyer. "The files are being carefully examined," says a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office. This could take some time.
Friends and acquaintances of Aman Alizada and other committed people want to continue to fight for clarification. A demonstration is planned for August 22 in Stade.