Italian police officer probed after soccer chaos

A police officer who supposedly killed a soccer fan was placed under investigation on Monday for manslaughter, news reports said, a day after the shooting led to riots across Italy and forced the suspension or postponement of three matches.

Authorities detained four people on Monday for taking part in the violence in Rome, where angry fans attacked a police barracks near the stadium and the building housing the Italian Olympic Committee.

Meanwhile, sports authorities met in Rome to decide on possible measures in the latest episode of soccer-related unrest.

Gabriele Sandri (26), a DJ from Rome, died after being hit in the neck by a bullet while sitting in a car. Police said an officer fired shots to disperse a scuffle at a highway rest stop in Tuscany.

Police have called the man’s death a “tragic error” and the exact circumstances surrounding it remain unclear. But police chief Antonio Manganelli promised to shed light on the event.
“We’ll uncover the truth,” he said.

The Ansa news agency said that the police officer who fired the shot was put under investigation for possible manslaughter by magistrates in Arezzo, a Tuscan town about 200km north of Rome where the killing occurred.

Police intervened to stop a scuffle between Sandri’s group of Lazio fans—headed to see their club play at Inter Milan—and a group of Juventus fans. They intervened from the opposite side of the highway.

According to a police statement on Sunday, an officer fired two warning shots in the air. But the unidentified officer was quoted as saying by Corriere della Sera on Monday that the second shot went off accidentally.

Clashes

Sandri’s death forced the postponement of two Serie A matches and the suspension of another as clashes erupted in cities including Milan and Bergamo. Enraged by the shooting, rioters smashed windows and hurled stones at police cars.

In the Italian capital, violent fans rioted into the night, setting trash bins and police vans on fire.

About 40 police officers were injured, Ansa reported. The Italian Olympic Committee (Coni)—attacked with the nearby police barracks—estimated the damage at about €100 000.

By morning, four people were detained in Rome, police said. Ansa said that they will be charged with vandalism as well as with terrorism—a charge added to ascertain possible ties of the rioters to neo-fascist groups.

No sanctions have been decided yet, but sports officials were holding a series of meetings involving the Italian soccer federation and Coni, amid calls of a halt to soccer.

Sports Minister Giovanna Melandri suggested the possible suspension of all play next week. However, no Serie A matches are scheduled until November 24 because of a break for international games.

The president of Serie A club Genoa, Enrico Preziosi, proposed a suspension of two or three months.

Solutions

Federation president Giancarlo Abete was to meet at 4pm GMT with the leaders of the major soccer groups—Serie A and B, plus the separate associations of coaches, players and referees.

“Miraculous solutions don’t exist,” he said.

“There is sadness and bitterness, but soccer remains to me something that can offer joy and renew hope, like we saw in Berlin in July 2006,” Abete told RAI state radio, referring to Italy’s World Cup victory.

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said he wouldn’t fully understand if the next round of Serie A was postponed. He said “the death of that poor guy was a pretext for people to lash out”.

“If an old lady with a soccer scarf around her neck is robbed and killed, should we stop the league?” Buffon was quoted as saying by Ansa at Italy’s training camp in Florence. “What happened yesterday in Arezzo didn’t happen inside or near a stadium, so it should be evaluated in the appropriate manner.”

Italy is no stranger to soccer-related violence. Last season, a police officer was killed in riots following a game between Palermo and Catania in Sicily. The killing prompted authorities to stiffen security measures in and around soccer stadiums, such as barring some fans from travelling to games seen as posing a security threat.

Ansa said an autopsy on Sandri’s body was scheduled to be carried out later on Monday in Arezzo.

The Inter-Lazio and Roma-Cagliari games were postponed on Sunday, and the Atalanta-AC Milan match was suspended after seven minutes when Atalanta fans tried to break through a barrier and storm their way on to the field. The remaining matches were delayed by 10 minutes.—Sapa-AP

AP sports writer Andrew Dampf contributed to this report

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