German police officers who shot Irishman six times have case dismissed – The Irish Times
Three years after Irishman Oisín Osborn was shot dead by Hamburg police in his own home, his widow and parents have challenged the dismissal of the case.
After a lengthy investigation, the Hamburg state prosecutor’s office has dropped preliminary proceedings against two police officers who faced charges of on-duty assault resulting in death. The prosecutor said the two officers were justified in shooting the Irishman six times in self-defence because, after responding to an emergency call at the Osborn home, they faced an “immediate danger to life and limb”.
The Osborns and their lawyers, attached to the case as joint plaintiffs, dispute the prosecutor’s interpretation of the facts.
“To me it all sounds like a set-up,” said David Osborn, Oisín’s father.
On May 22nd, 2019, Nikol Osborn called Hamburg emergency services saying her husband was in a highly agitated state and had exhibited threatening behaviour. When she mentioned knives, the call was transferred to the police and three radio patrol units, 10 officers in total, arrived at the semi-detached house. After receiving no response at the door the officers — armed with pistols and protective shields — broke in and shouted repeated warnings.
They encountered Oisín Osborn at the top of the stairs, dressed in underwear and socks and, around his waist, a sweater and home-made loincloth.
After using tear gas to no apparent effect, the police fired six shots. A shot from one officer hit Osborn to the right of his throat, while a further four shots from another officer hit his upper thigh, upper arm, left hip area, and his left chest area. He died at the scene and, in subsequent questioning, police said he had rushed towards them in a threatening manner and that they later found a kitchen knife under his body.
Lawyers for the family, drawing on police testimony, say none of the officers saw the dead man with a knife in his hand. What police presumed to be a knife, tucked into Osborn’s home-made loin cloth, was a kitchen spatula.
Osborn family lawyers argue the police were equipped with ballistic shields and that it is an “absurd assumption” that the threat posed by the Irishman justified a series of six shots, several from one officer with no other witnesses present.
“There are so many open questions that need to be clarified in court, in particular the ominous number of shots, if the family are to have any peace,” said Mr Elvis Jochmann, lawyer for the Osborn parents.
Hamburg’s senior state prosecutor’s office will now decide whether to confirm the case dismissal or order further investigation.
Nikol Osborn insists her husband, who lived and worked in Hamburg, “wasn’t himself” on the day he died. After a difficult birth of their first child days earlier, he had barely slept and was displaying symptoms of psychological stress. She says she asked emergency services for a doctor to calm down her husband but it remains unclear whether this information was passed on to the police.
“The police followed protocol, I don’t doubt their competence,” she said. “But there is no difference in the law between criminals and people who behave strangely or find themselves in an altered state emotionally. There is no other way to deal with them but to follow the most brutal path.”
While prosecutors say traces of cannabis were found in Oisín Osborn’s system, lawyer Claudia Krüger, representing his wife, said the concentration was “in no way enough to blame him in a negative way”.
Ms Krüger says two conflicting forensic examinations means it remains unclear whether Osborn was shot in the neck area and the bullet exited through the back of his head, or whether he was shot in the back of the head and the bullet exited through his neck.
“We need to find out if the victim was shot with his back to the police officer, or while he lay on the ground,” she said.
The Osborn family see their case as one in a series of controversial German police killings. Last month Dortmund police shot dead a 16-year-old asylum seeker who had threatened to kill himself.