Murder Charge For Police Chief Who Shot Bystander

A district police chief in Prey Veng province who shot dead a bystander during a raid on a cockfighting ring last week has been charged with mur­der, officials said on Sunday.

Chief provincial prosecutor Meas Sopheak said that Svay Antor district police chief Pom Kan was charged with intentional homicide on Saturday.

“He was charged with murder according to Article 199 of the criminal code,” said Mr. Sopheak, who said he did not know the name of the investigating judge who laid the charges. If found guilty, the police chief could face up to 15 years in prison.

Ke Im, 37, was standing on his property, holding his baby son, when police arrived at the adjacent lot to raid a cockfighting ring. Mr. Kan initially told police he had shot into the air to warn the gamblers against fleeing but later changed his story to say he shot when the group rushed at him.

The single shot fired hit Ke Im in the head, killing him instantly.

Provincial police chief Sreng Chea said yesterday that Mr. Kan was sent to provisional detention and suspended from his position.

“We have not decided yet who will come to replace his post,” he said.

Witnesses and the victim’s wife, Choem Men, said Mr. Kan had visited the victim several days before the raid, seeking information about who owned the land where the cockfighting was taking place.

After refusing to go to the police station, Ke Im reportedly told Mr. Kan he had no intention of informing police the next time a cockfight was held, for fear of angering his neighbors.

Ms. Men said on Sunday that she believed the perceived insubordination angered the district police chief.

“He is the person who knows the law, but he violated the law by killing my husband,” she said.

In addition to a murder conviction, she is seeking a total of $20,000 in compensation for her four children, ranging in age from 6 months to 14 years.

Ms. Men disputed that anyone had run toward Mr. Kan and said he simply shot her husband before driving away.

“When police arrived, everyone started running away, yelling ‘the police chief has arrived.’ But my husband didn’t run because he did nothing wrong,” she said.

“He wasn’t joining the cockfight, he wasn’t watching the cockfight, he was just walking around with our baby trying to get him to stop crying.”

Charges of intentional murder or injury for officials who discharge their weapons while in the line of duty are extremely rare.

Eang Kimly, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said she welcomed the court’s tough stance, though wished they had charged Mr. Kan under Article 204, which refers to murder committed by public officials and carries a stiffer sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

“It has a bad impact on society. He is a police official and should control his [personal] feelings while using a weapon,” she said.

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