About 1,500 mourners gathered in a Roma settlement in northern Greece for the funeral of a teenager who died days after being shot in the head by a police officer during a chase over an unpaid gas station bill. (Photo by VASILIS VERVERIDIS/MOTIONTEAM)
THESSALONIKI — About 1,500 mourners gathered in a Roma settlement in northern Greece on Thursday for the funeral of a teenager who died days after being shot in the head by a police officer during a chase over an unpaid gas station bill.
The crowd played traditional mournful music and a rap song that was one of the teenager’s favorites before forming a convoy to follow the hearse carrying the 16-year-old’s white coffin to the funeral service and burial.
The shooting of Kostas Frangoulis, who was married and had a young child, triggered days of protests which often turned violent, despite calls for restraint by the teenager’s family and Roma community leaders.
The Roma community has denounced the shooting as racially motivated. Several Roma men have been injured or fatally shot in recent years during confrontations with police while allegedly seeking to evade arrest for breaches of the law.
Police have said the youth attempted to ram the police motorbikes chasing him with his pickup truck. The officer accused of firing the shot has said he fired because he feared the lives of his colleagues were in danger, but that he had been aiming at the pickup truck’s tires and not at the driver.
The 34-year-old police officer was suspended and is under house arrest pending a court decision on whether to remand him in custody until his trial or release him on bail. Members of the Roma community have made clear they expect him to be put on remand. A decision is expected in the coming days.
Frangoulis spent more than a week hospitalized in critical condition after the Dec. 5 shooting, before dying of his injuries on Tuesday. Motorbike police had given chase after the teenager allegedly filled his pickup truck with gas at a station in the northern city of Thessaloniki and drove off without paying the 20-euro ($21) bill.
The officer was initially charged with a felony count of attempted manslaughter with possible intent and a misdemeanor count of illegally firing his weapon. The felony charge is likely to be changed to manslaughter with possible intent following Frangoulis’ death.
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