Eight Catalan regional police officers under investigation for the violent arrest of a Barcelona man who later died have been temporarily suspended from duty, Catalonia interior chief Ramon Espadeler said Monday.
Espadeler explained that the decision had been taken in view of the “seriousness” of the crimes involved.
The eight officers have also been summoned to declare before the judge investigating the death of Juan Andrés Benítez on November 13.
Benítez, a 50-year-old businessman from the city’s gay-friendly “Gayxample” neighborhood, died after being violently subdued by members of the Mossos d’Esquadra regional police in the downtown Raval district on October 5.
The judicial order, to which EL PAÍS has had access, states that the officers are under investigation on possible charges of homicide, torture, obstructing justice and coercion.
In the order, the judge also shelves the case against El Yazid A. who until now had been the only named suspect in the inquiry. The man, of Moroccan origin, had fought with Benítez that night, resulting in the intervention of the Mossos.
According to witnesses, the fight was not serious and Benítez emerged with barely a scratch. In fact, the situation had calmed down by the time the Mossos arrived.
However, a disagreement with a female officer who tried to calm Benítez resulted in the Mossos intervening to subdue him.
Two local residents recorded the incident, the two resulting videos later being published on the EL PAÍS website. The images led to the National Police – which has taken charge of the investigation – compiling a report stating that one of the officers punched Benítez up to five times in the left side of the head.
The autopsy reported that Benítez died as a consequence of multiple blows to the head, but failed to determine their origin.