A Khanh Hoa court sentenced a communal policeman to six years and nine months in prison for beating a teen boy to death while breaking up a fight that involved a colleague's son.
The Van Ninh District People’s Court sentenced Le Minh Phat to six years in jail for assault and nine months for effecting an unlawful arrest following his three-day trial that wrapped up on Friday.
The other teenage boy Le Tan Khoe, 15, the son of a local police officer, received nine years in jail for the assault, which occurred in in December of last year.
Phat’s partner, Le Ngoc Tam, got off with a suspended sentence of nine months in jail for effecting an unlawful arrest.
Khoe admitted to having initiated the fight by throwing an empty bottle at the boy the officer would later beat to death.
Phat confessed to having beat and kicked his face, head and body. In Vietnam, communal police is defined as a semi-professional armed force of which members are volunteers who do not have to pass high school to qualify.
According to the indictment, Khoe and the victim Tu Ngoc Thach, then-14, got into a fight a week before the cops got involved. The cause of the initial fight remains unknown.
On December 29, Khoe spotted Thach riding down the street on the back of his brother’s bicycle.
Khoe ran after them and threw an empty glass bottle at Thach, which hit him in the back of the head and caused him to fall off the bike.
Phat and Tam were stationed on the street at the time and stopped Khoe from chasing Thach.
Later that day, Thach brought several friends to look for Khoe to settle the score at a nearby stadium.
When Tam and Phat learned that Thach was rallying a mob to attack Khoe, they went to tell Khoe’s father Le Van Dung, who is also a village police officer.
During their visit to his home, Khoe spotted Thach on the street and called Phat for back-up. When the boy saw the police, he ran away, only to be chased.
Phat tried to handcuff Thach, according to the indictment When the boy resisted, he began to hit him in the face and continued to knock him down as he tried to stand up.
The parents of Tu Ngoc Thach at a hearing in Khanh Hoa Province on November 14, 2014. The court tried a teenage boy and two police officers who ultimately beat him to death. Photo: Nguyen Chung
He kicked Thach before dragging him back down the road.
On their way to the Van Long Commune police station, Phat slapped Thach numerous times.
At the station, Phat continued to strike Thach in the head and chest.
The boy’s family eventually got him out on bail, but he began vomiting uncontrollably the next day.
They rushed him to a hospital where he died on December 31, of cerebral trauma, according to a forensic autopsy conducted by the provincial Health Department.
During the trial, the disgraced officers said they meant to stop a fight but went overboard.
“I just joined the police force and was not clear about all the regulations yet,” Phat said.
The panel of judges ordered Phat and Khoe’s family to pay the victim’s family VND135 million (US$6,340) in compensation.
Phat was said to have already paid the family VND70 million ($3,290), so the rest is on Khoe’s family, the panel said.