No compensation for Madrid man hit in eye by stray police bullet

Antonio Castro has lost sight on one side and suffers headaches after ricochet accident

Antonio Castro Pimentel in his window factory.
Antonio Castro Pimentel in his window factory.F. J. VARGAS

On May 6, 2010, Antonio Castro was out shopping with his wife and two children in Madrid's Puerta del Sol. The family was about to enter a shop on a paved pedestrian area when an unnamed man began banging on the roof of a parked Madrid municipal police vehicle.

A passer-by called the police, and two officers soon arrived, and tried to calm the man down. He then pulled out a large knife and moved forward as if he were planning on attacking the officers. At the man's subsequent trial, he said that he had wanted the officers to kill him.

One of the policemen pulled his gun out of its holster and fired three shots at the ground in a bid to stop the man. One of the bullets ricocheted and hit Antonio Castro in the eye. He was put into an induced coma, before undergoing two operations. He ended up losing the sight in one eye. He has also lost all sense of taste and smell, and suffers headaches constantly that require him to take as many as eight pills a day.

Castro imagined that at the subsequent trial he would be awarded some kind of compensation. But in February the Madrid Provincial Court ruled that the police officer had acted in self defense, freeing him from criminal responsibility. The court then ruled that as there was no criminal responsibility, neither was there any civil liability on the part of Madrid City Hall. As a result, it says that it will not be paying Castro compensation.

"I am angry and frustrated. The judges' ruling is an absolute disgrace. It has taken more than 18 months to get a decision, and when it came through I couldn't believe what I was reading," says the 53-year-old.

Castro's life has been turned upside down. Unable to drive, he cannot visit his clients. As a result, he says, his window-dressing business has had to lay off more than half of his 50-strong workforce. He now faces serious financial difficulties.

"The simple fact is that I cannot work with the terrible headaches I suffer. Some days I can't even get out of bed," he says.

Castro says that he has not been contacted by Madrid City Hall. "They have forgotten about me. They have abandoned me like a dog. They have not even bothered to say a single word. But I am prepared to take this as far as I need to; I'm not going to let them get away with this. "

A Madrid City Hall spokesman said that Castro's case is being looked into. "We understand, but right now we can't do anything until the insurance companies come to some kind of agreement," added the spokesman.

Castro has also had to have plastic surgery in the area around his eye. "It has been extremely painful," he says, adding that he may have to undergo a third operation.

Castro's wife says that the Madrid police union has accused the family of trying to win a conviction against the police officer so as to speed up the compensation process. "That is a lie, but what this case really shows is that the law only works in favor of those with the money to use it to their advantage."

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