8 votes

One cop. One young refugee. Eleven shots. Why did Matiullah Jabarkhel have to die?

In Fulda, Germany, a police officer shoots a young refugee fatally. Was the action justified or violent? Depends on who you ask.

An article by Sebastian Kempkens, published on the 22th of September, 2021.

Translated by @Grzmot

For the protection of the individuals involved, some details have been changed.


When everything is over, Lukas Weiler is leaning on a fence in the commercial district of Fulda and feels like everything around him is wrapped in cotton. He sees blue lights shimmer in the darkness and his colleagues run towards him, is how he later remembers the scene. Around him the streets are being locked down. In front of him lies the dead body of a young man, that he, a street police officer, just shot. A puddle of blood is spreading on the asphalt. Steam is rising from the corpse on this cool April morning.

At some point Weiler, who actually has a different name, forces himself up and walks, accompanied by two colleagues, the way back on which he pursued the young man. He crosses the intersection, where he fired the first shot. He walks past the bakery, where he drew his gun. The parking lot, where his colleague was attacked and where everything began.

Weiler sits down in a room in the police station, which is located just around the corner. A man from the team which collects evidence and traces from crime scenes shows up and swabs his fingertips, on which there is still blood of the dead. Weiler must hand in his uniform and weapon belt, he remembers. His equipment is now evidence. Then, shortly before 10 AM, two colleagues enter the room, who oversee the investigation against him, followed by the state attorney.
The state attorney said: “Mr. Weiler, you are now accused in a homicide.”
On the report the details of the case will be detailed: That it is about article 212 in criminal law – Manslaughter. Time of the crime: 4:30AM, weapon: pistol Heckler & Koch P30.
Lukas Weiler fired eleven shots at the 21 years old Matiullah Jabarkhel. An Afghan refugee, who had lived with a temporary residence permit in Fulda and had thrown rocks at a bakery. It’s the 13th of April 2018, a Friday, on which a police response which looked like a routine, ended in catastrophe.
Deadly use of force involving firearms, that sounds like an American phenomenon. But even if the numbers in Germany are low in comparison: They are rising. Between 2000 and 2014 the statistics of the German university of the police only noted a two-digit number in one year. Since 2015, it has been a double-digit number every year. In 2019 and 2020, the police have killed 15 people each year.
The statistic does not differentiate between ethnicity and age of the victims. But the cases which make the headlines sound similar.
In 2019 an officer shoots an Afghan in Stade, who allegedly attacked a colleague with a metal stick.
In June 2021 a female police office [Addendum: In German the gender of the subject is denoted with a simple word ending, I was unsure if I should retain that information or not in the translation] kills a man from Morocco in Bremen, who is holding a knife in his hand.
And in Hamburg, in May of 2021 an officer shoots a man from Lebanon, who screamed “Allahu Akbar” and was allegedly brandishing a knife.
Each one of these cases fits into a schema. Especially since the Black-Lives-Matter protests in the USA such situations – white officers against migrant – stand under suspicion to be the expression of a racist perpetrator-victim system.
Just two days after the death of Matiullah Jabarkhel dozens of people came together at the crime scene, under the motto “Justice for Matiullah” they held high pictures of Jabarkhel and demanded, that the officer be punished. The foreign advisor of the city, Abdulkerim Demir, stood in front of the demonstrating people and gave an interview, in which he said that Jabarkhel was only buy bread and that the police might have “murdered” him.
The opposing front formed just as well. The AfD and the extremist rightwing identarian movement mobilized under the motto “The police – Our friend”, in social networks numerous users wrote things like “The monkeys don’t get it any other way.”, “Everything done right.” And “Clear boundary setting by the police officer!”. A representative of the AfD for the Bundestag released a notice to the press: Chancellor Merkel ensured with her immigration policy, that these uncultured, underqualified people believe, they can do everything here.”
More then three years Matiullah Jabarkhel is now dead, more than three years – until the July of 2021 – the investigation lasted. And still one question remains unanswered: Who is guilty here? The officer, who shot? Or the Afghan, who ran riot on that morning?
For the reconstruction of the intervention on the 13th of April 2018 and the resulting investigation, the ZEIT had the ability to go through files of the police, coroner’s and forensical reports, talked to brothers of Jabarkhel and his friends. With social workers and translators. The ZEIT also met with officer Lukas Weiler for three long conversations. The officer did not want to see his real name in the news, nor the name of his colleague who was on patrol with him that day, who shall be named Regina Wundrack in this text.
A few hours after Lukas Weiler leaves the police station on that Friday of April 2018, the father of Matiullah Jabarkhel gets a call from Germany in a small village in eastern Afghanistan. On the other end is a voice he does not recognize. The father, himself a police officer, a slender man with his head half-bald, stands in the living room of the family. He begins to tremble as he listens, finally ends the call and says nothing for a long time. His wife and sons ask, what happened, but he is silent. Then, his four remaining sons tell, he begins to cry terribly.
On the second to last day of his life, it’s Thursday afternoon, Matiullah Jabarkhel enters the foreign office in Fulda, a large building near the castle garden. He is a slim young man with soft facial features, his hair shaved to a kind of mohawk, short on the sides, long on the top. He walks up to the office and complains, that his social money had not been transferred. The conflict cannot be resolved, Jabarkhel cannot be calmed down, so security notifies a man, who sits a floor higher up: The man, a retired officer, knows Jabarkhel and is able to calm him down and promises, the money will be transferred this afternoon, he could get it soon at his bank.
Jabarkhel exits the office. One of the last somewhat friendly contacts with a state, where he wanted to build a future.
Matiullah Jabarkhel grew up in a large, tight-knit family. Six brothers, three sisters, the family of eleven lived in their village near the city Dschalalabad, about 100 kilometers away from the Pakistani border. When the brothers tell of this time, it sounds like a childhood where war comes and goes, but where also a lot os good. Matiullah plays Cricket, he teases his brothers during prayers and he has big plans. He wants to become a police officer like his father. But after one brother dies in the Afghan Army during combat with the Taliban and the family received threats, the father decided: Matiullah will go to Europe.
Converted, about 10,000 EUR credit the family takes up on itself for this. Matiullah, according to their hopes, will repay the money soon and can support the family financially.
Iran, Balkan route, traffickers. In October 2015 Jabarkhel, 18 years old, arrives in Gießen. The euphoria of the welcome culture is already slowly fading, but in retrospect it looks like he had a good start. He is moved to Fulda and gets lodgings in a refugee center. There is little space and it’s dirty, says his best friend, who he met there, but Jabarkhel finds himself in these new circumstances, learns a few pieces of German. After a few months, he can move to a better lodging. He was intelligent, says everyone who dealt with him. On photos he poses in front of a Christmas tree.
On the phone he tells his family with excitement of Germany’s pine forests and the luxury of selecting between countless brands of chocolate at the grocery store. A social worker remembers that he often wears the same T-Shirt, on his breast the words “I Germany”.
Jabarkhel attends an integration class and learns decent Germany. Like in Afghanistan he plays Cricket in Germany too, apparently, he even travels the country, there is a photo showing him at the Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin. He wears a white shirt and is holding a cricket bat in his hand. With the other he forms the victory symbol.
In that time, a social worker describes his behavior as unremarkable, not warranting further attention. Nothing points towards the looming conflict with the police.

The office of the attorney Pascal Johann is in a practical building in Frankfurt. Here, at the end of a long corridor, in a conference room, in front of grey curtains, waits Lukas Weiler.
It is not common, that an accused police officer agrees to an interview with a journalist after a that hotly debated, conflicting intervention. He decided after thinking about it for a short time. He wants to correct something.
At the meeting with Weiler you meet a man, who strangely enough appears both younger and older, than he really is. Weiler is 39 years old, but he could also be at the end of his 20s. He wears a T-Shirt, worn skater shoes, a fuzzy beard, around his wrist several old entry bands for rock festivals. When he begins to talk, he appears significantly older, than he is, that’s how bureaucratic and complex his words sometimes are. He tries hard to make himself as unattackable as possible.
Weiler is a police officer more by chance than anything else. A friend dragged him to the entry exam. In his sixteen years of service, he worked undercover in the trainyard district in Frankfurt and as a group leader at the police. He showed young officers the ropes, but his favourite activity on the job was driving on patrol. He doesn’t like offices. He loves being outside, “Help the weak and step on the toes of the evil”, is how he calls it.
Matiullah Jabarkhel has been in Germany for about a year, when the problems start. Like during an EKG of a stressed heart, one can notice stronger eruptions every time they happen. At the start, he has has difficulties organizing his day to day tasks, then, he the paid out money isn’t enough anymore. A woman who lived in the same building says that the refugees talked about him a lot: “One man told me, that Matiullah told him multiple times, that he was hungry and if he could give him bread.”

“Please make sure, that the boy stays in Germany”

Jabarkhel, who always told his best friend that he wanted to become a doctor in Germany, soon only sporadically attends class, the school throws him out due to missing too many classes. His social worker organizes him an apprenticeship instead, but he gets thrown out there too. He takes the train without a ticket and gets letters full of complicated words like reminder and debt collection.
Apparently Matiullah Jabarkhel becomes more and more desperate. He talks about suicide, and apparently attempts one too. Then, in March 2017, the federal office for migration and refugees denies his request for asylum. Through an attorney he fights the decision, from now on he lives in Germany only with a temporary residence permit, which has to be renewed every few months.
A short time later Jabarkhel is institutionalized in a psychiatry and receives stationary care: “Crisis intervention due to acute stress reaction, cannabis intoxication with addiction”, the doctors note. Jabarkhel doesn’t make it long, after just three days he releases himself, “because of urgent personal wishes and against professional medical advice”.
In November 2017, five months before his death, Jabarkhel receives a letter, that for him, must sound like the last friendly offer from a state that wants him gone. In the letter the federal office for foreigners advises a so called “voluntary journey back in his home country.” Germany does not send denied refugees back to Afghanistan, but voluntary trips back home are being organized.
Jabarkhel reacts with violence. In December, he hits his best friend, with whom he shares a room, with his fist in his face: Brainn trauma, bruising of the cheekbone, police intervention. Shortly after he hits another refugee without any known reason at a bus stop, splitting his lip. On the Christmas eve 2017 he threatens three people living in his home with a knife with a 20cm long blade, because they supposedly do not want to share their food with him. In March of 2018, a month before his death, he threatens a young Iranian woman and shatters her broom.
The witness statements by his housemates in the investigation after his death sound like a mix of fear and empathy: On one hand the young man terrorizes the whole home, on the other many feel sorry for him. Jabarkhel’s life in Germany, which started out so promising, is completely out of control after one and a half years.
On the evening before his death an acquaintance spots him at the Fuldau train station, where the pedestrian passage goes into the building. He sits there a lot with other refugees. They talk, joke, kick around empty beer cans and whistle after girls. And not seldomly, the acquaintance says, “they eat glass”, meaning they take drugs – Ecstasy.
Who had to cross the group on the way to the store or to work, probably often was annoyed by the group of young men. In a lot of German downtowns you can find them, hanging out in groups. They come from Syria, Somalia, Irak or Afghanistan. Sometimes they look sympathetic, sometimes threatening. In their home country they are thought to be the lucky ones that made it, but often enough they are broken people – with differing life stories that all go towards the same end: endless waiting, solitude and lack of perspective. And the feeling of being stranded between worlds, maybe even lost.
A doctor at one point diagnosed the Uprooted-syndrome in Jabarkhel, which is also called the Odysseus syndrome: A type of collective diagonisis of psychical ailments of refugees, which during their odyssey across the continents have lost everything that made up their world – Friends, family, home, their moral system, the inner compass.
At some point Jabarkhel couldn’t hold it together anymore. At a school conference, the topic being his missing classes, he called his father. A present translator said that he begged his father to be allowed to return to Afghanistan. The father had said: “Please make sure that the boy stays in Germany. We have sold everything, we have nothing left, we cannot use him here.”
Jabarkhel, the translator remembers, cried afterwards, “like a small child”.
Often now, Jabarkhel sits alone in the refugee home and talks to himself about nonsensical things. At night he is rarely home, always out for a long time, can’t sleep anymore, wakes up with headaches, he tells a doctor. Sometimes he punches and kicks the air, as if he was fighting an invisible enemy. At one point during a meeting with his social worker he stands in front of the office and says, “I am Hitler.” Multiple times.
The man responsible for the refugee home does his best to guide Jabarkhel back to the right path. But he is still responsible for sixty other refugees as well. A lot of other people dealing with Jabarkhel says the same: they want to help, but they have too little time.
Eight days before his death, 5th of April 2018, Jabarkhel makes a fundamental choice, which shocks the other refugees in the home: he signs the agreement for the voluntary journey back home, against the will of his father. By signing, he agrees to drop the complaint against his denied request for asylum. As if he had given up.

“The guy just wanted to destroy me”

Lukas Weiler’s night shift on the 13th of April is almost at its end, when he and his partner Regina Wundrack decide at about 4 AM to go out and control traffic and parked cars. Drivers, who were already getting to work will later tell investigators of a young man in a muscle shirt and Army pants: One window car he hits with his fist, in front of another he jumps directly into the street. It is Matiullah Jabarkhel.
The refugee home, in which proximity everything happens, is located in Münsterfeld, a former military outpost. Once upon a time, the Americans were stationed here. Today, there are a few apartments, otherwise mostly closed off commercial company grounds and offices.
Jabarkhel lives in room B39, on photos it looks abandoned. Ten square meters, metal lockers, a dirty refrigerator, cigarette butts on the window rest. At night, the neighbour heard, how Jabarkhel was hitting his head against the wall. “It happened so often, that after some time I recognized the sound”, he said later as a witness. But this time it sounded louder and more desperate. At approximately 4 AM in the morning he hears Jabarkhel run down the metal stairs, sees how he wanders in front of the building, yelling in German: “Fuck Germany, fuck the street, fuck this county!”
At 4:21 AM an emergency call is received at the police, originating from the bakery opposite of the refugee home. On the phone is the saleswoman, who wants to prepare the store for the first customers: “Here is someone, who is throwing rocks at the window.” In the background you can hear loud banging noises, is how it is written in the investigation files. “Fuck, shit, psychopath!” the woman yells.
Two minutes later the woman calls again. “A refugee or whatever” is still throwing with rocks, the delivery driver was hit on the head, she needs a doctor.
It only takes a few minutes until a police car enters the roundabout at the bakery. Not Lukas Weiler and Regina Wundrack are the first ones to arrive, but three colleagues: Driving and at the backseat two women, and riding shotgun one man.
The man will later say: “A male person” from the direction of the bakery had crossed the street: “My first thought was, that that might be the person that threw the rocks. But he was running pretty normally across the street.” Then the man suddenly attacked.
With a big rock, that he apparently picked up from the street, Jabarkhel breaks the side window of the car, opens the door and starts attacking the officer wildly with the rock. His colleague behind the wheel does not know how to help herself and hits the gas, dragging Jabarkhel about 200 meters while he wildly hits everything around himself. Then he falls to the ground, gets up and runs away. On a video that the ZEIT has seen you can see silhouettes, probably the male officer and behind him his two colleagues, following Jabarkhel to an unlit parking lot.
What happens later, will cause a lot of discussion. Three police officers, equipped, against a young man, who isn’t very tall at 1.70 meters nor very muscular – The result should be obvious.
The three officers from the first car however, are not federal police officers, but so called “Wachpolizisten” (watch police officers). Such officers have a shorter time of education and are mostly used for things like transporting prisoners or guarding objects. On this morning, the three have a task which they cannot handle.
It only takes a couple of seconds, until Jabarkhel has overwhelmed the male officer, apparently he takes away his baton and assaults the man lying on the floor heavily, his two colleagues unable to help.
Jabarkhel appeared like a “wild animal” one of the two will later say. She was afraid that her colleague would “lie dead under him”. The colleague himself say: “This guy just wanted to destroy me with an intensity that I have never witnessed in my life.” He describes Jabarkhel like a zombie: “massive, aggressive, dead eyes, unable to feel pain.”
Most likely there will always be doubts about the story. A coroner will later find cannabis in in a toxicological exam. But that does not explain the behavior. It reminds more of “the influence of certain psychoactive substances”, writes the coroner. But his laboratory cannot check the corpse for such drugs, a sample would have to be sent to a specialized laboratory. Which the state attorney never requested.
A few seconds after the male officer falls to the ground, Lukas Weiler and his patrol colleague Regina Wundrack arrive at the parking lot, running. The request for help reached them, while they were checking a car. Weiler immediately realizes, that the situation is serious. He jumps over a hedge, which is why he arrives a few seconds before his colleague Wundrack at Jabarkhel.

Was his behaviour a “suicide by cop”?

He hits Jabarkhel with his baton on his upper arm, he remembers. Jabarkhel immediately stopped assaulting his colleague and turned towards Weiler. Weiler moved back and tripped, losing his baton. Jabarkhel runs past Weiler, away from the parking lot, some stairs down towards the street. Weiler pursues.
Near the bakery, Jabarkhel stops. Weiler says, he hit Jabarkhel with a load of pepper spray straight into his face. From behind his colleague Wundrack sees, how Jabarkhel shudders, wipes his face with his hand and continues running. Later it will come out, that the pepper spray was most likely defective.
He ordered Jabarkhel to stop and drop the baton, says Weiler. But he didn’t react, instead kept on running.
Weiler pulls his gun and keeps up the pursuit.
In Hessian law about public security it’s clearly stated, when police officers are allowed to use their firearms: They can “only be used against persons to stop an immediate danger either against body or life.”
Was Weiler in immediate danger?
Jabarkhel and Weiler ran for about 100 meters when the officer overtake the Afghan. He wants to arrest him together with his colleague Regina Wundrack, but she is too far away. She can only see, that the two are facing each other, Jabarkhel with his back towards her. A person living nearby later would state as a witness that he heard someone yell “Stop moving, stop moving or I will shoot!”
When he yelled that, says Weiler, Jabarkhel looked at him.
What happens then, to this day cannot be determined without any doubts. Weiler and Jabarkhel are about two to three meters apart. Weiler says, Jabarkhel fixated his eyes on him, and then ran towards him. He, Weiler, moved back and shot at the legs of the attacker. Regina Wundrack, who was standing a few meters behind Jabarkhel, describes however, that there was no movement of the Afghan towards Weiler, when he started shooting. Another witness could only approximately see what happened and remembers “lightning” in the darkness, the muzzle fire of the shots.
Did Weiler shoot to soon?
The state attorney will later say, that “on the first impression” shooting “could be determined as not needed”, because Jabarkhel and Weiler were static. On the other hand, the attorney says, Jabarkhel was “without a doubt” still holding the baton, and it is unclear, “if his manner, words or behavior indicated another looming attack of the killed.” Factoring in Jabarkhel’s previous behavior, it cannot be assumed, that he was thinking about “capitulation”.
Thomas Feltes has researched cases like the one from Fulda for years, cases, in which often young men against all rationality and a stronger power on the side of the police, riot and risk the lives of the officers – and their own. Feltes works as a police researcher at the Ruhr university Bochum. The case Jabarkhel, he says, fits a trend: About three quarters of those shot and killed by the police are mentally ill.
For this task, Feltes says, officers are not well prepared. He recommends, that the officers retreat to deescalate the situation and play for time, for example until the civil reinforcement can arrive, like the psychological service. In most cases however, they do the opposite, and attempt to resolve the situation with force. Especially when it comes to the mentally ill, it can lead to catastrophe. The larger the built up pressure, the larger the sense of danger of the mentally ill – and the fiercer their resistance.
But Feltes also says, that the concrete situation is hard to estimate in this case. Who can say, if Weiler had another choice? Wnad what would have happened if he let Jabarkhel run? Would he have attacked someone else?
That Jabarkhel might have been mentally ill, will also play a role in the investigation of the federal police. The officers will introduce a “suicide by cop” theory. Most of the studies on the topic come from the USA. According to it, Jabarkhel provoked until a police officer would shoot him.
In Germany, only few researches have investigated the topic of suicide by cop. One of them is Dietmar Heubrock. The law psychologist from Bremen has written a guide for officers, that if you read it, you have to think of Matiullah Jabarkhel. Heubrock says, the provoked self killing often was “a spontaneous decision”. A lot of perpetrators are under the influence of drugs and were mentally ill. The need to force the decision of suicide on someone else, often has cultural reasons – in Arabian cultures suicides are a grave sin.
And still: it only is a theory. Under experts, a controversial one. It could be used to justify the behavior of the police in retrospect, because he didn’t want it any other way.

“I would have done the same with any other violent perpetrator”

On that morning in Fulda, Weiler apparently shoots three times. They miss. Then his gun fails to load, later an unfired bullet will be found on the street. According to Weiler Jabarkhel charges Weiler, as soon as he realizes that he cannot shoot, and starts beating him with the baton.
For a few seconds, Weiler and Jabarkhel are out of the view for his colleague. Weiler says, he was running backwards up the slight hill, trying to solve his failure to load and stop the bleeding Jabarkhel.
A person living close by, who was watching from his terrace, recalls Weiler’s calls: “Stop, stop”. But Jabarkhel was “still charging him, aggressively, he didn’t stop, nothing”, says the man later during a reconstruction of the scene. Regina Wundrack too sees them both again, and she too sees how Jabarkhel is charging her colleague with the baton.
Then Weiler fixes his failure to load, ejecting the unfired bullet. And fires from a short distance, until he has an effect, just how he learned it: He fires until Jabarkhel stumbles backwards and falls to the ground. At the end, Weiler goes to his knees too. “Shit, I shot a person”, he says, his colleague hears as she comes running. Weiler himself, cannot remember anymore.
In his report the coroner will later list all shot wounds: Neck, rib, right upper thigh, between the shoulder blades. In total, eleven shots were fired, four hit Jabarkhel, from a maximum distance of 2.5 meters. The entry wounds fit into Weiler’s testimony; the coroner writes.
At 4:49 AM the female emergency doctor determines Matiullah Jabarkhels death. Cause of death: Bleeding out due to shot wounds with disconnection to vital organs.
In the conversations at the law firm in Frankfurt, Weiler appears distanced and analytical, when talks about the details. He is surprised how you function in such a situation. Again and again he says, he worked through the escalation protocol: Baton, pepper spray, threat of shooting, shooting the legs, final shots at torso. In the end, he had no other choice. “If I didn’t act the way I did, I would’ve been lying on the street, and maybe someone else too.”
There are other theories on why officers shoot migrants. They too, come from the USA, but in contrast to suicide by cop they don’t focus on the mental state of the victim, but of the shooter. Studies regarding the so called shooter bias imply: police officers in a dangerous situation tend to shoot someone with darker skin – because there is a deep connection in their brains that is being accessed. Black equals dangerous. Arabian equals dangerous.
You can absolutely ask yourself if Lukas Weiler would’ve shot eleven times in the same situation if the perpetrator was white an German. But at the same time, police researcher Thomas Feltes warns the same way he did before, to explain a situation like Fulda with a singular cause – too complicated is the situation to be explained by something like shooter bias.
If you ask the Fulda police president Günther Voß for Weiler’s track record, he describes him as a very good colleague. No wrong behavior on his track record, in conversations the officer doesn’t say anything, which could even generously be understood as racist. He seems reflective, provocative questions he answers smartly and attempting to calm the conversation. During the investigation of the ZEIT, we receive a screenshot from an anonymous sender, showing the Facebook page of Weiler, under a slightly different name. You can see, what groups he has subscribed to. A Biergarden [Addendum: Imagine Oktoberfest, but way smaller, usually local annual celebration of something with the excuse to consume beer], a DIY workshop for children.
Under that, a red logo with the words “Protect home country – Stop asylum fraud!”, the title of the page: “No more asylum homes in Germany”, next to it another site, that Weiler has subscribed to: “AfD party in the German Bundestag”
Weiler reacts shocked, if you confront him with that screenshot. He confirms, that it is his profile. That he subscribed to those groups, he was not aware of that. He is almost never on Facebook, he does not support a political stance like that. Maybe he added the sites on accident, when he read comments related to the case. “I would’ve done the same with every different perpetrator as well – the skin colour was and is not a factor for me at all.”
One week after his death Matiullah Jabarkhel’s coffin lands in Kabul. The two older brothers pick him up and drive him home in a rented ambulance. When the family opens the body bag and sees the wounds all over his body, the mother faints. When the coffin is moved to the graveyard two hours later, she feverishly holds on to it, the brothers say.
Hundreds show up for the burial. The parents almost collapse there, also because some guests say: You shouldn’t have sent him to Europe, he’d still be alive then.

Every side sees itself as the victim and everyone else as the perpetrator

A short time later the father dies, aged 55, heartattack. His wife is brought to the hospital as well two days later, with high blood pressure and vertigo. Two weeks later she dies too, stroke. That’s how the brothers of Matiullah Jabarkhel describe it. The parents, they say, couldn’t handle the death of their son.
In Fulda photos soon begin to circulate, that apparently were taken in Afghanistan: the in white cloth wrapped face of Jabarkhel, his skin dotted with blue spots.
Lukas Weiler is driving in his car at that time, passing a protest banner. At one of the main roads he read in big letters: “What happened to Matiullah?” He asked himself at that time, why no one cared, what happened to the officer, says Weiler.
About a year passes, the state attorney stops the investigation, result: No credible belief in a crime. “For an alternative series of events of the final shooting, partly how the public calls it, an “execution” of Jabarkhel, there is simply not enough proof.” Writes the state attorney.
It doesn’t lead to the calming of the conflict. Not it only really begins. Exactly one year after Jabarkhe’s death in April 2019, people once again demonstrate, one of them would later be indicted. Another one supposedly yelled: “Cops murder, the state deports, what a bunch of racists!” another one held a protest sign high: Who do you call when cops murder?
If you talk with people from the left who attended the protests, then you often get counter questions for your questions. If you didn’t see what happened in Hanau? Or in Halle? If you’ve heard of the NSU 2.0? In chat groups, where police officers apparently exchanged racist messages, colleagues of Lukas Weiler were in them as well.
Two activists from Frankfurt publicize a blog post, title: “Police kills refugee, demonstrators demand resolution and are defamed”, they write, Jabarkhel had been killed with 11 shots. The police office accuses the two activists of libel. Reason: It was eleven shots, of which only four hit. But only people who know the investigation file know that.
And so the fronts harden. The leftists complain about racism and police violence, without considering in detail, the actions of the police officer. And the Fulda police searches the home of a journalist, because people shared the blog post in his Facebook group. Which causes the leftists to think that they were right.
On one side the apparently white, strong state. On the other the weak refugee and his supporters. Every side sees itself as the victim and the other as the perpetrator. And every side can call upon a theory that supports them. Here the suicide by cop hypothesis, there the shooter bias.
While the storm rages outside, Lukas Weiler attempts to understand his feelings. To get away from it all, he goes patrolling. For the left a scandal – How can it be, that an accused is still on the job? For Weiler, the day to day becomes more and more difficult, both at work and at home. He talks with a police doctor and a psychiatrist, “Work accident support” is written in the document handed to him by the relevant authority, in bold letters the diagnosis: “post traumatic stress disorder” and “problems dealing with depressive symptoms and symptoms of bitterness”.
At least the investigation is behind him. But then in 2019, the video appears, which shows his colleagues following Jabarkhel to the parking lot. A group of young adults filmed the video and only now informed the police. The state attorney reopens the case, asks the new witnesses, it’s apparent, how complicated the case is, how difficult a final verdict will be.
In July of 2019 the investigation is closed again. The German attorney of the family Jabarkhel appeals. The investigation is re-reopened. And finally closed for good. There will not be a case.
The brothers of Matiullah Jabarkhel say, they don’t understand how the officers got away with it. If you talk to them through a video call, they cry a lot, and hold each other in their arms, interrupt the interview again and again.
Lukas Weiler says, he has the feeling of being publicly shamed, even though he was only doing his job. He has decided to stop doing patrols. He, that always wanted anything but a job behind a desk, requested to be retrained to an emergence call responder, where he would sit at a desk, in front of him a phone, and take emergency calls.
Cooperation: Amdadullah Hamdard
Behind the story: To contact the family of the dead Matiullah Jabarkhel in rural Afghanistan, the author of the story talked to Amdadullah Hamdard, a local employee of the ZEIT. He visited the family in May 2021. It was his final mission for the ZEIT. In August Amdadullah Hamdard, who was on the death list of the Taliban, was shot in front of his house.

5 comments

  1. Grzmot
    Link
    Original source: https://www.zeit.de/2021/39/fall-matiullah-jabarkhel-polizeigewalt-fulda-fluechtling-toetung-polizei/komplettansicht That final note is quite the gut punch. While the title...

    Original source: https://www.zeit.de/2021/39/fall-matiullah-jabarkhel-polizeigewalt-fulda-fluechtling-toetung-polizei/komplettansicht

    That final note is quite the gut punch. While the title implies something and I'm sure our American friends will surely feel like this has happened before in their country, I imply you to read everything before judging, as this is quite a bit more complicated than someone kneeling on someone else's neck for 11 minutes.

    Thank you for reading. Critique, suggestion, thoughtful comments are always appreciated.

    5 votes
  2. [2]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    I haven't even logged in to Facebook in years, barely ever used it before that, and the only group I ever joined was for my friends to organize our yearly meetups. So can anyone more familiar with...

    During the investigation of the ZEIT, we receive a screenshot from an anonymous sender, showing the Facebook page of Weiler, under a slightly different name. You can see, what groups he has subscribed to. A Biergarden [Addendum: Imagine Oktoberfest, but way smaller, usually local annual celebration of something with the excuse to consume beer], a DIY workshop for children. Under that, a red logo with the words “Protect home country – Stop asylum fraud!”, the title of the page: “No more asylum homes in Germany”, next to it another site, that Weiler has subscribed to: “AfD party in the German Bundestag”

    Weiler reacts shocked, if you confront him with that screenshot. He confirms, that it is his profile. That he subscribed to those groups, he was not aware of that. He is almost never on Facebook, he does not support a political stance like that. Maybe he added the sites on accident, when he read comments related to the case. “I would’ve done the same with every different perpetrator as well – the skin colour was and is not a factor for me at all.”

    I haven't even logged in to Facebook in years, barely ever used it before that, and the only group I ever joined was for my friends to organize our yearly meetups. So can anyone more familiar with Facebook answer a question for me: What are the odds that someone would subscribe to those last two groups by accident?

    Because it seems to me to be pretty damning evidence that indicates he likely holds racist, anti immigrant/refugee/asylum-seeker beliefs, and even tried to hide that fact by using a modified name. But the article really seems to gloss over all that, and doesn't follow up on it.

    And for reference: AfD party = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_for_Germany

    Alternative for Germany (German: Alternative für Deutschland; AfD) is a German nationalist and right-wing populist political party, known for its opposition to the European Union and immigration. It is on the radical right or far right of the political spectrum.

    Also of note:

    In 2016, AfD Member of the European Parliament, Marcus Pretzell was expelled from the party after he said that German borders should be defended from incursion by refugees "with armed force as a measure of last resort".

    Later that same year former AfD party chair and Member of the European Parliament, Frauke Petry told a reporter from the regional newspaper Mannheimer Morgen that the German Border police must do their jobs by "hindering illegal entry of refugees" and that they may "use firearms if necessary" to "prevent illegal border crossings". Petry later stated that no policeman "wants to fire on a refugee and I don't want that either" but that border police must follow the law to maintain the integrity of European borders. Afterwards, Petry made several attempts to justify these statements.

    p.s. Regardless, thanks for sharing this and translating it all for us, @Grzmot. Even if the shooting wasn't racially motivated, it was still a super depressing read though. :(

    4 votes
    1. Grzmot
      Link Parent
      There's a chance the cop held those views in the past (or maybe skirted with those ideas, nothing makes you consider your positions on such issues like a couple million people knocking on your...

      I haven't even logged in to Facebook in years, barely ever used it before that, and the only group I ever joined was for my friends to organize our yearly meetups. So can anyone more familiar with Facebook answer a question for me: What are the odds that someone would subscribe to those last two groups by accident?

      There's a chance the cop held those views in the past (or maybe skirted with those ideas, nothing makes you consider your positions on such issues like a couple million people knocking on your door) and then stopped using Facebook and forgot about it. There's also a chance that he subscribed to those groups in the past and they later changed their names/images etc.

      Those are about the only benevolent explanations for it that I could think of, but I don't use Facebook either so I don't know. A less benevolent explanation would be based off his statements that he subscribed to those groups when he was researching the case simply because they were on his side. Sometimes people fail to consider your valid points if those valid points are being delivered to them through a thousand screaming voices. It has happened to me in discussions with much less at stake, where you're put on the defensive and suddenly there's nothing else but proving your point.

      I think I agree most with the words of one of the researches, who warns to attribute this to a singular cause. There's a chance that the police officer, maybe subconciously, reacted differently because it was someone from the middle east he was dealing with. But more than anything it shows under how extreme duress our social systems are by this wave of people who arrived, and the majority of them didn't even make it here, the EU has deals in place with Turkey, which has held up most of the refugees trying to cross and is not letting them past.

      It shows how someone was put in a frankly impossible situation by his family, made a very difficult journey and then was supposed to build up a new life with little to no support system. On the other hand, the state did try to help by intervening and sending the man to psychiatry, but I think it was too little too late. And when the signs were getting more and more obvious that he was becoming a danger to the people around him and himself, no one did anything, his suffering got drowned out in the noise. It's a sad, sad story. I think it's fair to say that a lot of people would've cracked under the immense pressure this lad was under.

      4 votes
  3. [2]
    DepartedPretzel
    Link
    Thank you for translating the article, I read its entirety. I am biased against police officers and find them to be a failed solution to societal problems. I especially do not trust police...

    Thank you for translating the article, I read its entirety.

    I am biased against police officers and find them to be a failed solution to societal problems. I especially do not trust police officers to treat immigrants fairly.

    However, even if I were to put my attitudes aside, I don’t think this is a quality article. Most of the story comes from one perspective. No community members, activists, witnesses, or family members are directly interviewed. “Leftists” are quoted without specific attribution nor follow-up responses, and are painted as the story’s enemy. Meanwhile, the writer interviews the police officer in-depth, who literally gets the first and last word of the story, and actively invites sympathy for him. Supposedly it’s so unfortunate that this police officer is now relegated to a desk job. This story is so one-sided that it reads like a profile article of a celebrity.

    The framing is similarly misguided in its lack of greater societal context. The story includes some background about the accusations of racist policing but doesn’t examine much further. The writer also doesn’t question the systemic safeguards that could have addressed the victim’s mental health and prevented the tragedy. I’m left wondering about the availability and effectiveness of proactive mental health intervention, immigrant-specific mental health programs, and mental health crisis responders where the victim lived. There’s little to be learned from this rather long article other than the police officer’s claims.

    What I’m really left with after reading this story is a suspicion of the writer’s motivations. The article forgoes many opportunities to include opposing viewpoints and consider the context. Should we sympathize with the person who pulled the trigger this easily?

    3 votes
    1. Grzmot
      Link Parent
      I have to admit, I don't entirely understand how you reached your conclusion. The article contains: 2 opposing theories (suicide by cop and shooter bias) backed up by 2 different researchers in...

      I have to admit, I don't entirely understand how you reached your conclusion. The article contains:

      • 2 opposing theories (suicide by cop and shooter bias) backed up by 2 different researchers in the field, where at least one of them warns that to attribute this situation to a single cause is difficult
      • Conversations with friends and family of the victim, most importantly describing how broken the family has become due to these events.
      • Reconstructs the victim's journey through the German social system, including a stay in a psychiatry. Mentions his descent from model immigrant to someone in desperate need of serious help while the checks and balances supposed to keep him safe and healthy failed one by one.
      • Explicitly states that the amount of people who are mentally ill and a victim of a police shooting is rising.
      • Mentions at one point that the people who tried to help Jabarkhel all had too little time, but wanted to help, indicating a social system under extreme stress.
      • Describes the opposing reactions of both political sides. The pro-cop reactions are unsavory and quoted directly.

      I don't understand how you got to your conclusion that this article is mostly from one perspective when it explicitly sets out to view this tragedy from all perspectives.

      No community members, activists, witnesses, or family members are directly interviewed.

      In particular this criticism confuses me. The brothers of the victim are interviewed directly. There was cooperation with a local correspondent to find the family in rural Afghanistan. The author of the article video-chatted with them and they are quoted multiple times in the article. The experiences of the people who lived with the victim are documented. Community members like the foreign advisor of the city where this happened are directly quoted.

      It is left standing that the parents of Jabarkhel could not live with their guilt and died very shortly after receiving those news. I believe the article goes explicitly out of his way to paint Jabarkhel as something more than just a brown violent criminal. Maybe you read past those bits because you agreed with them and only remembered the bits of the article you view as problematic.

      However, even if I were to put my attitudes aside, I don’t think this is a quality article.

      I feel like this is overly harsh criticism. The amount of work that went into writing this piece and the result is in my opinion definitely quality, even if you may not agree with it.

      I went away thinking that two people were put in an impossible situation because at every step of the way beforehand, something failed. A man was forced to bear an impossible burden in a very foreign land by his family. They went heavily into debt to facilitate his journey and said that they did not want him back. It started a slow descent into madness to which the state reacted to too late, and since a stay in a psychiatry is voluntary, was unable to keep him in a controlled environment because by then the proof for an involuntary stay wasn't there to order that. Until finally Jabarkhel had a psychotic episode, became violent, met a couple of untrained officers, intensifying the violence and pushing the other side to react more harshly in the only way they were trained to do. A guide book for police officers dealing with violent mentally ill people is explicitly mentioned too.

      7 votes