Mohamed Lamine Dramé (inset) allegedly attacked the police with “a possibly suicidal intention” before he was shot with a machine pistol, according to official accounts/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia/Private

Germany: Minister admits possible mistakes in fatal police shooting of African teenager

The Minister of the Interior of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Herbert Reul, has admitted a possible misconduct of the police officers involved in the fatal police shooting of Mohamed Lamin Dramé, the 16-year-old refugee from Senegal who was killed by a policeman on 8 August in Dortmund.

On the fateful day, the police had been invited by a social worker at the hostel in the Nordstadt district of Dortmund where the African boy lived because he exhibited suicidal behaviour, according to the public prosecutor. He was said to have held a knife in front of his stomach and expressed his intention to end his life.

All entreaties to Mohamed by the eleven law-enforcers called to the scene to drop his knife failed, according to the official accounts, which was why one of the officers, a 29-year-old policeman, had to fire five shots with a machine pistol at the Senegalese as he made to attack them.

The young Mohamed Dramé had arrived in Germany in April 2022 as an unaccompanied 16-year-old refugee and had been severely traumatised after his odyssey at sea. He had left a psychiatric clinic the day before his fatal encounter with the police, where he had reportedly asked to be admitted.

On the basis of the current findings of the investigation, the minister, a member of the CDU, said on Thursday before the interior committee of the NRW parliament in Düsseldorf that he had the “impression that some things might have gone wrong during this operation”. He did not give more precise details, referring to the ongoing investigations. At the same time, Reul warned against generalisations and prejudgements.

The minister announced that as a consequence of the incident, the service regulations and manuals for the police in NRW would be reviewed to see to what extent the task forces were prepared for such situations. It should also be examined whether police officers need to be “better qualified” to deal with suicidal persons and persons speaking foreign languages. In addition, the increased use of body cams by police officers should be examined.

The Recklinghausen criminal investigation department is currently investigating the five police officers who allegedly used weapons or means of intervention such as tasers and irritant gas against the youth during the operation. The shooter is being investigated for dangerous bodily harm resulting in death, and the charge of manslaughter is also being examined. Disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against the five accused officers.

In a petition, signed by almost 38,000 people, experts demand independent investigations and they criticise that the police would have acted differently if the African teenager had been white.

Reul however pointed out that the use of firearms in police operations in NRW was the absolute exception and that the officers were not “trigger-happy”.

The young Dramé had arrived in Germany in April 2022 as an unaccompanied 16-year-old refugee. He had only been in Dortmund for a few days before the dramatic confrontation with the police on 8 August 2022, when he was fatally shot by a policeman.

It seems that Dramé, who apparently did not speak German, had been severely traumatised after his odyssey at sea – as is the case for many young refugees – especially as he had left the psychiatric clinic the day before his fatal encounter with the police, where he had reportedly asked to be admitted.

Following negotiations between the Senegalese embassy and the municipal administration of Dortmund, the remains of the teenager were transported to Senegal on 18 August where they’ve since been buried. Germany bore the costs of the repatriation.

Sola Jolaoso

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