Roger Wilhelm, 37, who was half South African and half Swiss had a mild panic attack at a train station, where he was screaming and crying before police were called to the scene. When the police arrived they reacted with deadly force.
THERE seems to be no end in sight when it comes to the brutal killings of black people at the hands of the police as an unarmed man of South African descent was shot and killed allegedly by police in Switzerland at a train station on August 30, 2021.
Roger Wilhelm, 37, also known as Nzoy, was half South African and half Swiss. According to members of his family, he had been suffering from depression and had a mild panic attack at the train station, where he was screaming and crying before police were called to the scene.
When the police arrived they failed to notice that he was having a panic attack and they reacted with deadly force. Video footage shared with Independent Media shows that after shooting him the police handcuffed him and left him bleeding and did not help him.
According to witnesses at the scene, a woman who was in the train ran out of the train to try to resuscitate him while he was on the ground but it was too late.
His sister Angela said Roger, who was travelling alone on the day, took a train from Zurich to Geneva and on the way back he got out at Morges as he was not feeling well, he was suffering from depression.
Saunders Nzoyi, Roger’s other sibling and Angela faced several hurdles when opening a case against the Swiss police as they were asked to first prove that they were indeed his siblings. Angela said they had to produce WhatsApp chats, pictures as well as birth certificates.
“The prosecutor that works closely with the police has twice refused to accept us as plaintiffs. We had to take the matter to a higher court and that was where we were eventually accepted as plaintiffs,” she said.
The case has been opened and investigations are under way.
When reached Andrew Rae, the First Secretary at the South African Embassy in Bern, said the Mission in Bern’s understanding currently, was that Wilhelm, although having a parent who was South African, was a Swiss national.
“We have undertaken communication with the Swiss authorities in order to confirm his status as either a Swiss National or indeed as a holder of dual nationality. This will serve to inform our understanding of what happened during this terribly sad incident,” said Rae.
Roger’s cousin, Nolwandle Nzoyi, based in Joburg, South Africa said the whole incident had been very hard on the whole family. “We have to fight for justice but it is difficult to do that as one unit because one part of the family is in Switzerland the other here in South Africa.
“We could not attend his funeral due to Covid-19 restrictions. Roger’s mother (my aunt) –who is also deceased – left South Africa during the apartheid era and lived in Switzerland with her children. It is painful that he was killed by white police just as he was planning to come back home to South Africa next year (2022),” she said.
Nolwandle said Roger was cremated in Switzerland, with no assistance from the state, and his ashes would be sent to South Africa, where his mother was buried. She said the matter was reported to the South African Embassy in Switzerland.
While Nolwandle acknowledged that this might have been a grave error by the police, she pointed out that the police were afraid of a black man praying. “The police officer who called the ambulance said ‘there is a man here a man of color’. Was this important for the ambulance to know? Was it important for him to say that? This is all about racial profiling.”
She said police did not even try to restrain him before opening fire at point-blank range. “Trained police officers against one man? They shot him and they let him lie there for more than four minutes without any help. They used their feet to move his body,” she said.
Roger’s sister Angela said they were afraid that they would not have a fair case, claiming that the prosecutor and the police worked closely together. She alleged that the prosecutor might be doing the reports in favour of the police.
“We have to pay for legal costs from our pockets and this is expensive, the prosecutor has an unlimited budget. We don’t have an unlimited budget,” she said.
According to Nolwandle, Angela had also been receiving threats from some people on the streets and on social medial for fighting for her brother. “As a family we want the world to know about Roger’s death and we need to get justice for him.”
This tragic incident occurred at the height of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign, sparked by the killing of George Floyd in police custody in the US, which shocked the world and triggered massive global protests.
Human rights activists and commentators said the unwarranted killing of black people was a global phenomenon. This as Switzerland finds itself having to deal with the death of a Nigerian man in March 2018 in Lausanne also at the hands of the police.
According to a report by AFP, the death of a 37-year-old Nigerian man Mike Ben Peter, received little attention beyond the western Swiss city, where it sparked a small demonstration against police violence.
AFP reported that Ben Peter died following a violent arrest after he refused a police search. In the encounter, involving six police officers, he was pinned to the ground, on his stomach, according to his family’s lawyer Simon Ntah.
Before Ben Peter’s death, another man of African descent was shot dead by the Swiss police, and the junior officer in training was later acquitted on the grounds of self-defence.
Hervé Mandundu, a 27-year-old Congolese man, who lived in Bex, Switzerland and had mental issues, had broken through his neighbour’s door and pretended to threaten him with a bread knife before leaving the premises, according to a report by Rebecca Stevens A (www.medium.com).
“The police, however, believed he was high and psychotic. When the police arrived, a heated conversation ensued. Mandundu chased them and threatened one of the cops – a junior cop in training, with the same bread knife. The cop panicked and shot him three times – twice in the leg and once in the chest. Mandundu died at the scene,” reads the report.
The junior officer said he shot Mandundu because he feared for his life. “But one is left wondering, do you need to shoot someone three times to neutralise him or her? Wasn’t there excessive use of force in this case? And shouldn’t that excessive use of force be punished?”
According to www.swissinfo.ch, Switzerland documented a record 352 cases of discrimination in 2019, reflecting an increase in racist acts in public places and attacks spurred by far-right ideologies.
The right to non-discrimination and the right to life is essential to all societies. At the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council, International Service for Human Rights and 10 Swiss-based NGOs called on Switzerland to ensure accountability in police violence cases.
Roger Wilhelm, tragically adds to the seemingly growing list of people who were killed in Switzerland by racist police violence, such as Ben Peter, Mandundu, Lamin Fatty among several others.
The Alliance against Racial Profiling said in August: “We do not only mourn for the many people who were killed in other countries like Ágatha Vitória Sales Félix and David Nascimento dos Santos in Brazil, Adama Traoré in France and Oury Jalloh in Germany. We also mourn those in Switzerland … And these killings are not just isolated cases. They are an expression of the structural racism and the prevailing politics of deportation that characterise Swiss society and state institutions. Racist police violence is a deadly reality in Switzerland too!” | Investigations Unit – firstname.lastname@example.org