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Michele Ferrulli

Michele FerrulliThe incident

Michele Ferrulli, aged 51, died on 30th June 2011 after being apprehended by the police. That evening, at about 9:30 pm, Michele was listening to some music on his van stereo and having a beer with two friends near his home in Via Varsavia, in Milan. Following a complaint about the music being too loud, a police car arrived at speed, followed by a second one, each manned by two police officers. It was just after 10 pm. According to eyewitness accounts, Ferrulli handed his identity documents over to the police normally and answered their questions. Then, in the space of a few seconds, in circumstances yet to be clarified, he was immobilised, thrown to the ground and beaten. He died shortly afterwards, despite the efforts of the 118 emergency ambulance personnel, who took him to San Donato Milanese hospital.

The investigation into Ferulli's death was headed by Public Prosecutor Gaetano Ruta, who appointed police doctors Gentilomo and Burgazzi to carry out the autopsy. The autopsy report referred to head injuries and broken ribs – the latter possibly resulting from the attempts to resuscitate him by cardiac massage – and put the cause of death as acute cardiac circulatory failure. No serious injuries to the vital organs were noted, which means that the link between the actions of the police and the man's death cannot be established with absolute certainty. In fact, during the trial, the defence continually returned to this point, arguing that the man died of a sudden illness.

It seemed at first that the case was going to be dismissed, but then, when video footage of the incident came into the hands of the Public Prosecutor's Office, the investigation had to be resumed. There were three videos, all of which were broadcast wholly on the Website of the newspaper L'Unità by A Buon Diritto and L’Unità. The first one was filmed by a surveillance camera outside a chemist's shop, and it clearly shows one of the police officers giving a slap to Ferrulli, for no apparent reason.

The other two videos, both filmed with cellphones, contain footage of what happened immediately after, when Ferrulli was being restrained on the ground. The first was filmed from high up in a block of flats and the images in it are confused. The second one, though, was taken by two Romanian women sitting in a car parked nearby. They saw the episode and commented on it as it happened. What they said, translated into Italian and then English, was: “they've got him by the hair. He doesn't want to give them his arm”, “did you see that punch in the mouth?”, “look at the way they're hitting him; first the handcuffs and then they beat him”, “but won't they burst his kidneys? see that? poor man!”, “he's dead!”, “he's dead, you say?”, “can't you see? his face is black and he's not moving any more”. Faintly, Ferrulli can be heard pleading “help, help, stop”.

Thanks to this footage, the judge at the preliminary hearing decided to commit the four police officers to trial, on the charge of voluntary manslaughter.

The trial

The trial began on 4th December 2012 and, with the first testimonies being heard by the jury in April 2013. Chief Inspector P.S., the police officer responsible for the patrol cars, testified that one of the accused policemen had told him that Ferrulli “had tried to strike E.” (another of the police officers), while E. himself said that the blows administered to Michele Ferrulli were mere “technicalities”, the kind needed when handcuffing an uncooperative man (despite the fact that at the time of the scuffle with E., Ferrulli already had one wrist handcuffed). Public Prosecutor Ruta requested a sentence of seven years for the four defendants, but this request was turned down by the Milan Court of Assizes which, in a sentence pronounced in July 2014, acquitted all four defendants, there being no case to answer.

Published: Wednesday, 18 February 2015 18:44

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