Police officer jailed for throwing flashbang grenade on suspect’s lap

Blast destroyed 25-year-old victim’s testicles during an attempted arrest

A reconstruction of José Antonio Coscolín’s arrest by Catalan police in 2008.
A reconstruction of José Antonio Coscolín’s arrest by Catalan police in 2008.

The regional High Court in Barcelona has sentenced a Catalan police officer to one year in prison for negligent use of a flashbang grenade that destroyed the testicles of a suspect he was trying to arrest in 2008.

Alberto Morano, who serves on the Mossos d’Esquadra’s Special Intervention Group (GEI), was also kicked off the force for one year and ordered to pay his victim, José Antonio Coscolín, 168,000 euros in compensation. Another defendant, Sergeant Víctor Esteban, also of the GEI, was acquitted.

“I cannot have any children even though I have been operated on six times. I have gone through severe depression,” Coscolín told the courtroom.

The burst from the flashbang grenade, which landed in his lap while he was inside a vehicle, destroyed his entire right testicle and 75 percent of the left one.

The incident occurred in Castelldefels, Barcelona province, on November 4, 2008 when the Mossos were trying to track down Coscolín, who worked as a debt collector, and his employer, who had an outstanding arrest warrant. Police wanted to detain the boss following complaints by some citizens concerning the aggressive methods he was using to collect money.

Coscolín, then 25, went to the home of his boss and the two left in a Porsche Cayenne, with the victim riding in the passenger’s seat.

Sergeant Esteban thought it would be better to block their path and arrest them on the road after two police vans showed up on the scene. But what happened next isn’t clear.

During the trial, Coscolín said he saw a group of armed men dressed in black approaching them and thought it was a kidnapping attempt. He and his boss decided to stop and raise their hands.

But some witnesses and the police testified that the driver of the vehicle refused to stop and advanced a few meters before one officer broke the window of the Porsche with an emergency rescue hammer.

Within seconds Morano decided to use his flashbang grenade because he feared he and his companions would be run over. In their ruling, the judges on the High Court agreed that Morano acted according to police regulations when he decided to use the grenade, even if it was thrown inside a vehicle. What is not permitted — the judges said, concurring with experts that testified at the trial — is for the flash device to be thrown on a person. The officer knew the grenade was going to land on a suspect and he would not “have had enough time to react,” the ruling states.

The head of the GEI said such an incident has never occurred before. He told the court that he had even held a flash grenade in his own hand as it went off without suffering any injuries.

According to experts, Coscolín involuntarily covered the grenade’s exhaust holes, which may have caused the device to explode in an unconventional manner.

The Catalan regional government’s interior department will also be held responsible for paying civil damages to Coscolín.

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