Police officials indicted in farmer’s water cannon death

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Police officials indicted in farmer’s water cannon death

Four police officials, including a former Seoul police chief, were indicted Tuesday on charges of negligent homicide in the death of an activist farmer due to injuries caused by a police water cannon.

In November 2015, Baek Nam-ki fell unconscious after he was shot directly by a police water cannon during an anti-government rally. The farmer, who was in his 60s, fell into a coma before he died of acute renal failure in September 2016.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office indicted Goo Eun-soo, then-commissioner of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, and Shin Yun-kyun, then-chief of the 4th riot squad, as well as two low-level officers who operated the water cannon. They will face trial without detention.

The prosecution claimed that their negligence of duty was responsible for the farmer’s death, which stirred up a huge public uproar against the police’s excessive use of force on protesters.

A probe found riot police had failed to follow rules that ban firing water cannons directly at a person above the chest. Baek was hit directly in the head by the jet. It accused the police of neglecting their duty to use force with the utmost caution. The probe also revealed that a device that controls the water pressure was malfunctioning at the time, raising the possibility that it could have been fired at a pressure exceeding the legal limit.

The police agency denied responsibility, saying that it had followed every legal procedure. The prosecution did not file charges against Kang Sin-myeong, the national police chief at the time of the incident, saying that he was not directly involved in the operation.

Baek’s family expressed regret over the probe result, insisting that Kang should also be held accountable.

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