That a person dies in the streets of Madrid by police shots is a very rare event, but it happened on November 5 and the National Police reacted with strange silence. This body sends press releases almost daily, sometimes about minor interventions such as arrests of thieves in the box office of a gym, but did not consider it necessary to do the same in this case. Nor was anything published in the official networks where it was reported that same day of the rescue of several camels that had escaped from a circus.
And 18 days later the lack of information about this episode continues. The spokesmen for the Higher Headquarters of Madrid have answered briefly to questions from journalists who have been interested, but they have hidden key details: they have said that the deceased pounced on an agent with a “large kitchen knife”, but They have not shared images of the knife or more specific characteristics. Nor have they specified how many times they shot or wanted the identity of the deceased to be known, of which they have said that “they do not have the full name.” They have reported that his name is Issa M., that he was sub-Saharan and that he was in his 40s. There are no photos of him either.
The deceased is Issa Munkaila, according to what the Embassy of his country, Ghana, tells this newspaper. The scant attention to his death has contributed that his relatives have not spoken for him and that the event occurred in a very poor neighborhood in the south of the capital of Spain, San Cristóbal. He had been living on the streets for a while and had mental problems. The police knew this because, according to a spokesman, the deceased had a record of four attacks against authorities in the last two years. According to a neighbor, on one occasion They beat him up and left him lying on the ground.
What has been known about the event is a video captured from a balcony. The recording begins at the moment of the last shot, so that the previous moments are not appreciated, which are key to knowing if the use of fire in self-defense was justified. But the scene contains indications that the police officers put themselves in unnecessary danger.
The facts are as follows, according to the brief description that the spokespersons of the Higher Headquarters of the National Police of Madrid read to the interested media: on Friday, November 5 before 10 a.m., several residents of the San Cristóbal neighborhood, in the south of the capital, they called 091 alerting that they had received threats from a man who was walking upset with a large kitchen knife around a health center. According to police spokesmen, after the arrival of four officers in two patrol cars, this person jumped on an officer who shot him in self-defense. The other three companions responded with shots at the insistence of the aggressor.
Four bullets hit the deceased. Others got embedded in a red Mazda, a gray BMW, and a couple of waste bins.
As can be seen in the video taken from the balcony, when Munkaila was shot he was in a very narrow section of Rocafort Street, at number 92, at the back of the health center. There are no pedestrians on all that road.
Even recognizing that the sequence is incomplete, an expert in police tactics consulted by EL PAÍS, Antonio Coque, believes that there are elements to assess that the way of approaching the subject could be more cautious. Coque, a former civil guard with 39 years of experience, gives continuous training courses on police operations.
At the time of the shooting in San Cristóbal, says Coque, it is not appreciated that the lives of third parties are in danger, nor is there the possibility that someone unsuspecting appears on the scene. The health center has a back door but it is disabled, and the apartment building across the street has no doors on that entire section. “Wasn’t it better to build a fence? Negotiate with him? Have all the options been exhausted?” Asks Coque.
On the other hand, the approach of the four agents is not the most recommended, in their view. They had numerical superiority and they all carried their pistols in plain sight, which could provoke a panic reaction in the subject, who felt threatened: “In a situation like this the individual will have two responses: flee or fight. What I teach in my courses is that the first agent approaches with open hands, that the next two go with batons and that the fourth is the one who draws the firearm, ”says Coque, who directs the Verbal Defense Institute.
Another policeman, the director of the Depol academy, Andrés Ramos, points out that elements are missing to make a judgment about the intervention. “It is not easy to make an assessment. We are talking about an individual who was out of his mind and who would not respond to a normal persuasion ”, he opines.
In the video, expletives from an agent are heard during the 23 seconds after the shooting, while Munkaila lies motionless on the ground: “I’m shitting your fucking mother”, “bastard”, “I’m killing you.” Coque believes that they could constitute a crime of humiliation. A lawyer who has defended cases of investigated police officers, José Luis Fuertes, does not see any evidence of crime after seeing the video. Regarding the insults, Fuertes notes that they question the agent’s professionalism but believes it is relevant that “they were uttered in the heat of the moment, after a moment of danger to his life.”
In the video, the agents immediately request the dispatch of toilets on the police radio. “Samur, urgent Samur,” cries a policeman. “At the outpatient clinic. It was a gun. H50 ″, he says using the police code for the room where the 091 telephone operators answer.
At 26 seconds, reinforcements from the National and Municipal Police arrive: “Are you okay, comrades?” Soon there are nine troops on the scene. In second 44 an agent is heard saying: “My head almost blew out!”
A police spokesman for the Madrid Headquarters told eldiario.es that the deceased had cornered a policeman and that he had shot after he hit him in the hand with the knife. But neither in that video nor in another recorded by the neighbors that EL PAÍS has obtained is there an appreciation of any wounded agent.
Multiple neighbors have appeared in the media to deny that Munkaila threatened anyone. I was wandering around the neighborhood, they say. According to an aide at the health center, he stood swinging the knife on the entrance ramp. Then, according to witnesses, he went around the building and that’s where the police found him. The investigating judge María Belén Sánchez lifted the body and now has the investigation of the facts in her hands.
Use of guns
Spanish officers study at the Ávila Police School the three principles that govern the use of force: opportunity (the need to use force), consistency (the most appropriate means of using it) and proportionality (intensity of its use). But unlike other countries, the National Police has little regulation of its actions and there are no protocols rated for each dangerous situation, according to several police trainers consulted. Nor are video sessions held to draw lessons from past interventions. The need for more ongoing training on tactics and operations is a widespread demand from unions.
The unions have unanimously defended the actions of the agents in San Cristóbal. The common thing is that there is a general solidarity among those who in their service to the public risk their lives and their children’s bread. In social networks, some agents proposed medals and others remembered the case of a colleague fallen in the line of duty in a similar situation, when a homeless person stabbed an agent in Fuengirola in 2014.
His name was Francisco Díaz Jiménez, but for his friends, family and colleagues he was simply ‘Paco’. At the age of 33, and being stationed at the UPR in Fuengirola (Malaga), he was fatally stabbed with a ham knife when he was about to identify his assailant. pic.twitter.com/OiKY2FA0eB
— ITEPOL (@ITEPOL_COM) November 6, 2021
But others who have seen the video believe that Munkaila is a “new victim of police abuse.” The SOS Racismo Madrid association released a statement on Monday 8 considering that the police acted disproportionately because Munkaila was a black person: “It is not necessary to look at the United States; Here, at home, the National Police kill racialized people, and then they look the other way as if nothing had happened. Why don’t our lives matter?
Asked about the matter, another rights association, Rights International Spain, calls for a rigorous and exhaustive judicial investigation: “Taking all precautions due to the fact that the entire scene is not seen, the death of an individual by police shooting has to be investigated, listening to witnesses and requesting the security cameras to have as much information as possible about the complete sequence ”, claims Patricia Goicoechea, director of the association. “This seems like a huge obvious, but we must not forget that Spain has more than a dozen convictions by the Strasbourg Human Rights Court for lack of sufficient investigation of the complaints of excesses in the use of force by the police” .
Little else is known about Munkaila’s life. Friends of his of sub-Saharan origin say that he had been living on the streets of San Cristóbal for a while, moving from one corner to another “looking for the sun.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.