RIGA - Two police officers were killed July 30 while on duty after allegedly failing to perform a complete body search of a detainee, who turned out to be a fellow police officer. The incident caused an outrage in political circles, with Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis moving to suspend one of the nation's top law enforcement officers.
Krists Leiskalns, an aide to Latvian Interior Minister Dzintars Jaundzeikars, said while patrolling the territory of the Valmiera bus terminal at about 5 p.m. July 30 officers of the regional police force noticed an intoxicated man who was apparently unable to walk on his own. The officers took the man to a local police station.
It later turned out that the individual was an officer of the Interior Ministry's information center.
At about 5:45 the detained man pulled out a gun he had been hiding in his clothes and fired nine shots at the two officers, aged 26 and 41, killing both.
Interior Minister Dzintars Jaundzeikars said that the suspect in the case is a high-ranking police officer and that he is being detained. It is reported that the man kept three firearms at home.
Jaundzeikars noted the leadership of the police is unable to cope with such incidents and cited insufficient cooperation between the police and the Interior Ministry. The minister said he would have a serious conversation with State Police head Janis Zascirinskis about the incident.
"It is quite possible that the State Police head will be dismissed, because it is not the first case he showed blatant irresponsibility in performing official duties," the interior minister said, adding it would be necessary to reconsider the competence of people licensed to possess weapons. "In case there have been any brushes with the law, weapons must be immediately seized," Jaundzeikars said.
The interior minister suspended the chief of security police, Aivars Grigulis, for the duration of the internal investigation. Haralds Ladins, chief of the security police's operations management office, will also be suspended, the minister told reporters.
In addition, information center chief Janis Ritins and Valmiera Police Chief Juris Andersons have already been suspended.
Zascirinskis told the press that if the investigation found that some of the blame for the tragedy was his, he would resign himself.
Meanwhile, Kalvitis spoke angrily about the murders.
"These incidents suggest that the crisis in the state police has become protracted, and in the case of Valmiera, the police officers who checked the detained man are clearly to blame for the tragedy resulting in two victims," Kalvitis said.
The prime minister also said that the man who shot and killed two policemen at the police station had been detained two months ago for drunk driving, further demonstrating police incompetence.
The Interior Ministry has set up an investigation commission headed by the ministry state secretary Aivars Straume. The commission is expected to make its first report to the minister in two weeks.
State Police spokeswoman Sintija Kajina said families of the killed policemen are entitled to up to 50,000 lats (71,100 euros) compensation, but the exact amount and the date of payment would be set after the investigation into the tragedy is completed.