Forensic examiner Eleni Antoniou says the police acted properly when they shot dead a 41-year-old Egyptian man in Oroklini last month, but critics are questioning the official facts in the case.
Antoniou, who was in charge of the case and has filed a full report with the police, told the Cyprus Weekly that the man fell to the ground as he was on top of his baby son trying to slaughter him.
“In all my years and experience, I have never seen such a horrific situation,” said Antoniou, adding that the police acted properly and did what they had to do to save the 16-month-old baby.
But critics have raised questions over the official account of what happened in the Oroklini apartment on May 21, in a quiet residential area in the Larnaca district.
Officials have publicly said that police acted with deadly force only as a last resort, when they saw no other option in order to save the baby’s life from his own father who was holding a knife.
The official version draws a picture of several officers first storming the apartment through the front door and shooting four rubber bullets at the suspect. When they realised the warning shots had failed to incapacitate him, then a real bullet was fired killing the man instantly.
Antoniou told CW that the man was shot four times on his right arm, as the officer were intending to cause him to drop the knife he was holding.
“He was cold-bloodedly trying to slaughter his baby,” Antoniou said, adding that police took action just in time to save the baby from a sure death.
She said the baby had suffered a knife injury very close to a carotid vein, which would have caused the baby boy to bleed to death before getting any medical assistance to him.
It was at that time, according to the forensic examiner, that police took aim and shot the man dead.
“The bullet struck him on the left side of his chest and exited in the back of the thorax,” Antoniou told CW.
The fast pace of events along with the suspicion that the man intended to harm the baby have not convinced sceptics, who openly criticised reports in the media saying things did not make sense.
Doros Polykarpou, director of anti-racist and pro-immigrant KISA activist group, agreed that the whole commotion in the flat with rubber bullets as well as the shooting of the man with a real bullet while trying to kill his baby are difficult to comprehend.
Initial reports said negotiators had arranged with the man that he would deliver flammable material through the front door of the apartment. Police said he was using them to make bombs and set different items on fire. It was at that time, according to reports, that police stormed the apartment.
Polykarpou argues that authorities failed to deploy different methods, where trained professionals could have reasoned with the man instead of an anti-terrorism unit demanding the baby before anything else.
He also believes that state services failed to act ahead of time, when police answered domestic abuse calls phoned in by neighbours in the past.
Antoniou told CW that the 36-year-old Hungarian mother, who was unharmed during the incident, had bruises on her face believed to have been caused a week earlier by a violent outburst of her husband. That was probably the last chance the family had to address their differences without the threat of violence, if authorities could have stepped in.
According to KISA’s information, the father was actually the caretaker on a daily basis and the mother was the one who had to work and provide for the family.
But the couple received neither state assistance nor social counselling, despite police knowing the family was in trouble, according to Polykarpou.
Independent investigator Lefteris Solomou is now in charge of the case and will decide whether police had acted appropriately.
The baby is said to be vocalising sounds, which is a good prognosis for future recovery, according to Antoniou.