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Roma Protest Death of Teen Shot in Head by Greek Police Officer

ATHENS – With police on alert after the death of a 16-year-old boy shot in the head by a police officer in a chase over an unpaid 20 euros ($21.33) for gasoline, thousands of Roma protested in the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki.

While his community leaders called for calm, the death of Kostas Frangoulis set off a storm of furious demonstrations that followed those after the shooting on Dec. 5.

“Despite the enormous efforts of staff in the intensive care unit, the patient died,” Thessaloniki’s Ippokratio hospital said in a statement. He had been in intensive are there after undergoing emergency surgery.

“Everyone here is crying. It is unjust for a child to leave like this,” Antonis Tasios, Secretary of the Roma community where the teenager lived, said after the hospital announced the death. “We (feel) great pain,” media reports said.

Some 2,500 protesters gathered in Greece’s second-largest city Thessaloniki where the shooting happened after police said the boy drove away from a gasoline station without paying and was chased by police motorcycle squads.

The officer who fired at him, who hasn’t been named, said he did so in self-defense because the youth was trying to turn the vehicle to ram them. He is under house arrest, a prosecutor recommending charges be brought.

Another march was held in  Athens with reports of protesters setting tires on fire and blocking roads in rallies in other parts of the country, Thessaloniki police saying some 50 people came out of university to throw Molotov Cocktails at them.

The Roma community said the shooting had racist motives, noting other incidents where members have been wounded or killed in recent years in confrontations with police, said the British newspaper The Guardian.

“It wasn’t the gas, it wasn’t the money, the cops shot because he was Roma,” the protesters in Thessaloniki chanted, the community claiming it’s long been discriminated against.

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