TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- During a trial for the killing of an unaccounted for Vietnamese migrant worker, the police officer accused of using excessive force claimed he fired nine shots because he could not tell whether the man had been hit because his "skin was black" (皮膚黑).
Police officers from the Hsinchu County precinct were dispatched on Aug. 30, 2016 in response to an emergency call at 9:54 a.m. to the precinct's command center, which reported that a nude man was trying to smash a car window, according to the bureau.
According to the National Police Agency (NPA) Nguyen strongly resisted when two policemen, Chen Chung-wen (陳崇文) and an officer surnamed Lee, came to arrest him. The 27-year-old unaccounted for worker fractured the nose and bruised the face of Lee and damaged a police baton.
Police then used pepper spray to subdue the man. The NPA says that he continued to resist arrest by throwing stones at policemen from an irrigation ditch while he rinsed his eyes.
When Nguyen crawled over and tried to enter the police patrol car, Chen opened fire on the man and shot him nine times. Despite condemning video evidence to the contrary, Hsinchu police claimed that they immediately transferred Nguyen to a hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
In 2017, Chen reached a settlement with Nguyen's relatives worth NT$2.6 million. However, the Hsinchu District Prosecutor's Office pressed charges for negligent homicide (過失致死罪) and used footage from Chen's body camera as evidence.
Nguyen (right). (Screenshot from police video)
In the video, which was shown in court, three volunteer "police auxiliary" officers are at the scene, one of whom is nursing a bloody nose, and Nguyen is nude and crouching on the bank of a river.
Chen can then be heard saying, "If he gets up again, I'll shoot." Nguyen rushed forward and yanked open the door of the police car.
Chen, who was about three meters away, then fired four shots and shouted at Nguyen to back away from the vehicle, but the man then tried to climb into the driver's seat. Chen then fired five more shots.
Within 12 seconds, Chen had fired a total of nine shots at Nguyen. Nguyen went limp, slid out of the door, and leaned against the car.
The judge asked Chen why he opened fire, when his body camera footage shows that Nguyen was nude and not attacking him. Chen said, he shot Nguyen, because he had earlier picked up rocks and threw them at auxiliary officers and police, so he thought he was aggressive and was trying to get into the driver's seat of the squad car.
The judge then asked Chen, "Why after you fired four shots, and could see that Nguyen was bleeding from the waist and buttocks, did you fire the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th shots?" reported UDN. Chen replied, "Because his skin was black, I could not clearly see that he was bleeding, and how many shots I fired, I don't know either," causing a stir among those in the courtroom, reported Liberty Times.
"If, as Chen said before, the shooting was to prevent Nguyen from stealing the police car, why didn't he shoot the wheels first?" asked the judge. Chen responded by saying, "The incident happened too suddenly, I forgot," reported UDN.
Chen and his defense lawyer Wei Shun-hua (魏順華) claim that he is innocent. Wei argued that Chen was a young and inexperienced, and during those short 12 seconds, the situation was so urgent that he did not have time to "worry about it too much."
Wei asked that he hoped that the judge and society would not "wipe out" a good policeman. The prosecutor said he hoped the judge would rule according to the law.
Nguyen's lawyer said that because his family had reconciled with Chen, they agreed to a suspended sentence, but hoped that the judge would find him guilty. The presiding judge will deliver a verdict on July 22.