Police report reveals warnings were issued about Depor soccer hooligans

Authorities denied knowledge that group of ‘ultras’ was planning on traveling to Madrid

Deportivo players hold a minute’s silence at their training session on Monday after the death of one of their ‘ultra’ fans.
Deportivo players hold a minute’s silence at their training session on Monday after the death of one of their ‘ultra’ fans.cabalar (EFE)

A police report has revealed that Deportivo de La Coruña soccer club did advise security forces that a group of violent ultra fans was planning to travel to Madrid on Sunday for the game between the team and Atlético Madrid. The authorities were also advised that the violent group was planning to hire buses from outside the province with the aim of avoiding suspicions about its intentions.

A man died on Sunday after a savage fight broke out between Deportivo ultras, known as the Riazor Blues, and a hooligan gang from the Madrid team, Frente Atlético. More than 200 people were involved in the brawl, which happened at around 8.45am on Sunday.

The Deportivo security coordinator issued a warning to police chiefs in Madrid and those in charge of La Coruña sports events

In the wake of the incident, the authorities denied having had knowledge of the journey the Riazor Blues were planning. That was why, they explained, there was a minimum police presence at the site of the conflict, in the Madrid Río park, close to Atlético’s Vicente Calderón stadium.

But the report reveals that the security coordinator for Deportivo, Juan Lagarda, did in fact issue a warning to the head of security for the match, a police chief in Madrid, and the National Police chief in charge of sports events in La Coruña.

“Said security coordinator informed the security chief from the match that, apparently, the Riazor Blues could be traveling [to Madrid], but that he could not supply more information given that it is possible that the group may have hired buses from outlying provinces,” the police report reads. The document was being analyzed yesterday by members of the government’s Anti-violence Commission in an emergency meeting, which was investigating the events that led to the death of Francisco Javier Romero Taboada, a 43-year-old member of the Riazor Blues also known as Jimmy. An autopsy revealed that he died from a head injury and a ruptured spleen, most likely after he was beaten with an iron bar.

Graffiti in the Madrid Río park reads: “Francisco Romero was killed here. Never forgive and never forget!”
Graffiti in the Madrid Río park reads: “Francisco Romero was killed here. Never forgive and never forget!”PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU (afp)

The internal police report indicates that the Deportivo security coordinator requested that they took into account “the good relationship” between the Riazor Blues and the Bukaneros, the radical ultra group from Madrid club Rayo Vallecano, members of which were also allegedly present. According to sources from the Anti-violence Commission, the risk was dismissed given that the security heads as well as those in charge on the La Coruña side assumed that the ultras had not managed to buy tickets for the game.

The central government’s delegate in Galicia, Santiago Villanueva, explained on Monday that the information received by the police chiefs in La Coruña was given to his colleagues in the Spanish capital. “We passed on the pertinent information to Madrid,” he said, but failed to give out more details because, he explained, that information was confidential while an investigation was underway.

An autopsy revealed the ‘ultra’ died from a head injury and a ruptured spleen, after being beaten with an iron bar

Also on Monday, the heads of the State Security Forces held a press conference to present some of their conclusions. The general director of the police, Ignacio Cosidó, admitted that the authorities had some “suspicions” but were not certain that Depor radicals would try to gain access to the Calderón stadium. “We had knowledge that some groups were going to make the journey but we did not have information about a bus carrying ultras. There were suspicions that they could try it but not that one or two buses were to travel down,” the head of the police force explained.

If the plans had been known about, the Anti-violence Commission would have classed the match as high risk, and the police would have deployed 10 times more officers in the vicinity of the stadium (1,500 instead of the 160 in place on Sunday). What’s more, the buses would have been given a police escort from 30 kilometers outside the center of the Spanish capital. If these measures had been put in place, the two groups never would have come into contact.

The violent supporters did everything they could to evade the controls” State security secretary Francisco Martínez

The police are working on the theory that the Deportivo Fan Club Federation placed 100 tickets for the match in the hands of the ultras, without advising the club or the police. Sixty-eight of these tickets were seized by the police on Sunday. Raúl Pereiro, one of the ultras arrested on Sunday, was the man who received the tickets.

Investigators have also managed to confirm that the buses were hired by Riazor Blues in Lugo, in order to avoid tipping off the police. “The violent supporters did everything they could to evade the controls,” said state security secretary Francisco Martínez on Monday. “There was a deliberate attempt to dodge them.”

Neither the chief of police nor the Interior Ministry’s secretary of state explained on Monday how much time Francisco Javier Romero, the ultra who died in the fight, spent in the River Manzanares, after being thrown in by the Atlético hooligans. Witness reports suggested it was a full half-hour before he was fished out by firefighters, although Madrid City Hall emergency services suggest that it was 16 minutes before he could be rescued.

The search for those responsible for the death of the ultra continues in Madrid. The security forces are checking videos filmed by bystanders in an attempt to identify who was responsible for the beatings doled out on Sunday.

Additional reporting by Xosé Manuel Pereiro and Juan L. Cudeiro.

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