THE OFFICE of the Special Prosecutor has charged a 51-year-old municipal police officer from Svätý Peter, Milan Juhász, with premeditated murder, violation of the sanctity of a home and carrying a concealed weapon, Michal Slivka, spokesman for the Police Presidium, told the TASR newswire on June 18. The police officer is in custody.
The off-duty police officer shot three people dead and seriously wounded two others in the town of Hurbanovo in southern Slovakia on Saturday, June 16. If found guilty Juhász could face 25 years in prison or a life sentence, Slivka added. But the police spokesman refused to provide any other details because the investigation is ongoing.
“At the moment we can only confirm that the weapon he used was not in his legal possession,” Slivka said, as quoted by TASR.
The police still do not have any motive for the shootings.
The incident started shortly after 10:00 on Saturday morning. The shooter reportedly drove his passenger car to the front of a house at 5 Komárňanska Street in Hurbanovo that is occupied by a Roma family. Juhász left his car and started shooting with an unlicensed gun. The police officer was not on duty at the time of the shooting, TASR wrote.
Juhász allegedly shot dead a 44-year old man, his 19-year old son and 24-year old son-in-law. The fourth victim was the second son of the man, shot in the chest, and the fifth victim was the son’s wife, who was wounded in the leg. Both were taken to the hospital in Komárno.
The police found the suspect about one hour later in a family house on Agátová Street where the mayor of Hurbanovo, Margita Zemková, lives. Media reported that he apparently wanted to inform the mayor about the shooting but she was not home at the time.
The shooter threatened to commit suicide but after two hours of negotiations he voluntarily surrendered to the police, who detained him and took him to the police station for questioning.
The spokesperson for the hospital, Marta Csregeová, told the SITA newswire on June 18 that the health condition of the Roma man remains critical but is stabilised.
Police discount a racial motive
Juhász reportedly knew the residents of Komárňanska Street, where two Roma families live in neighbouring houses, with Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák saying the officer had visited the houses during police duties. Four of the five victims of the shooting had criminal records according to Kaliňák. The Sme daily reported that the municipal police had recently detained some of those living at Komárňanska 5 due to a robbery of a precious metal. Juhász and the victims of the shooting are all of Hungarian nationality.
Though the motive of the shooting is not clear the police said it is not very likely that it was racially motivated, explaining that if it had been the man would have killed more people, the Sme daily wrote on June 18.
The police reported that Juhász was not under the influence of alcohol or other drugs when he was detained and the police stated that during the initial hearing that the police officer appeared to have some memory loss, Sme wrote.
Media reported that the shooting might be motivated by some “fishy business”. The Nový Čas daily reported that the family and Juhász knew each other very well and they even visited each other regularly. The father of the dead 44-year-old man said that his son and the police officer were buying cars from abroad and selling them in Slovakia, Nový Čas wrote.
Psychologist comments on the shooting
The Interior Ministry told TASR that Juhász had worked as a police officer for 20 years and there had never been any complaints about his service, adding that neither his colleagues nor the mayor had noticed any recent erratic or unusual behaviour in the officer. The ministry said Juhász is married and has two daughters.
Some residents of Svätý Peter told TASR that they were taken aback by the shooting, noting that Juhász had not been aggressive in the past and that they are now afraid the shooting will cause unrest and the potential of revenge being taken by Roma residents. The police are strengthening patrols in the area.
Mayor Zemková is trying to calm the situation in the town, calling on residents via cable television to not increase tension in the community. She summoned a meeting of the town’s council and local police to discuss the situation, the SITA newswire reported.
Psychologist Anton Heretik, an expert on evaluating the behaviour of perpetrators of violent crimes, told SITA that the shooting in Hurbanovo is a professional failure from every point of view.
“Police officers in general, whether they are local or state, should be chosen based on their ability to control and manage aggression,” the psychologist said, as quoted by SITA, adding that police officers should also be regularly trained in this since their work is full of conflict.
The psychologist criticised the procedure under which police officers take a psychological test only at the beginning of their service, noting that the police force does not check the psychological state of officers later in their careers. Heretik said that state police officers are not regularly evaluated by psychiatrists, do not have any opportunity to talk about unresolved conflicts, and are not continually trained in dealing with crisis situations.
The psychologist would not address the issue of a motive, saying he had not yet read all the details of the situation, SITA wrote.
Groups ask for a full investigation
Klára Orgovánová from the Roma Institute, Jarmila Lajčáková from the Centre for the Research of Ethnicity and Culture, and František Kutlík from the Slovak Institute for Mediation, sent an open letter to President Ivan Gašparovič, Prime Minister Robert Fico, parliament and other state bodies in which asked that the shooting be fully and properly investigated as well as asking for a stop to repressive, anti-Roma measures and passing of proactive measures to eliminate growing intolerance toward Roma residents of Slovakia, SITA wrote on June 17.
“Surveys have been warning against deep-rooted prejudices and hate towards members of the Roma minority for a long time,” states the open letter, as quoted by SITA, adding that a survey conducted in 2010 showed that up to two-thirds of respondents openly supported discriminatory actions against Roma.
The letter’s signatories also warned that the shooting in Hurbanovo shows that this trend continues, writing that “regarding the growing intolerance towards Roma it is no surprise that the popularity of right-wing extremist movements, as well as individual deeds aimed against Roma, is going up”, SITA wrote, quoting the statement.
“At the same time, none of the previous governments has passed and implemented a policy which would allow the Roma minority to be released from the trap of dependency and exclusion,” stated the letter, adding that public authorities silently tolerate segregation in education and building walls to separate Roma communities from other citizens.
The government proxy for Roma communities, Miroslav Pollák, stated the shooting was inexcusable and incomprehensible” and said he plans to meet with police to ask them to responsibly investigate the shooting and take measures that could prevent similar tragedies in the future, TASR wrote on June 18.
“Most reactions and the attitude of the majority population regarding the tragedy in Hurbanovo show that Roma are viewed negatively and the postponement of a solution to the problems of Roma communities can bring another worsening and escalation of the relations between residents of Roma communities and the majority society,” Pollák stated, as quoted by TASR.
The proxy also asked the media to inform sensitively about the tragedy, saying that biased and untrue reports will only worsen tension between Roma and non-Roma residents of the area.
Similarities with 2010 shooting?
Several media have started writing about comparisons between the shooting in Hurbanovo and a shooting in Devínska Nová Ves that occurred on August 30, 2010 in which Ľubomír Harman killed the members of one Roma family, injured several other people on the street and later committed suicide as the police were seeking to detain him.
The shooting in Devínska Nová Ves led to an amendment of Slovakia’s law on possession of guns and gun licensing that required recurrent psychological evaluations of those with licenses.
Private television TV Markíza reported that while Harman killed members of one Roma family he then continued to shoot randomly at others who were on the street. Juhász only fired at the residents of one house and did not engage in any random shooting.