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News, Victoria

Outrage as Victoria Police cleared over bookshop raid brutality

Victoria Police have been cleared by the state’s corruption watchdog of accusations of using excessive force in a botched raid that shattered an innocent man’s arm.

Nik Dimopoulos was arrested last May when police mistakenly raided his apartment above the Hares & Hyenas LGBTIQ bookshop in Fitzroy.

The 2 am raid was in bungled pursuit of unrelated suspects of a carjacking and home invasion.

“At no stage did they identify themselves as police,” said shop co-owner Rowland Thomson at the time.

“They just stormed into a dark room shining torches and it was impossible to identify them as police.”

Fearing the break-in was “an anti-gay home invasion”, Dimopoulos ran into the street, where officers threw him to the ground and violently arrested him.

The massive injuries to his arm were described as the worst a surgeon had ever seen.

In addition to the brutal arrest, police have been accused of racially profiling Dimopoulos in their pursuit of “a Lebanese gang”.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission today released its finding that the officers’ actions were “not disproportionate to [their] objective of arresting Mr Dimopoulos”, ABC News has reported.

However, it found the police had violated Dimopoulos’s human rights because “the officers involved in the incident did not, as the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities obliges them, advise him of the reason for his arrest, make him aware of his rights, or officially release him from custody”.

Dimopoulos’s lawyer Jeremy King said that the decision was “legally contradictory” and “sets a dangerous precedent for policing in Victoria”.

He said that the commission’s report was “not the end”, and that the apartment residents planned to object to its findings.

Members of the community have taken to social media to express their outrage over the decision, calling it “appalling” and “a joke”.

“This is why queers are terrified of cops. Absolutely livid,” tweeted Melbourne Greens Councillor Rohan Leppert.

The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby said it supports Dimopoulos’ ongoing legal action over the incident.

Victorian police union secretary Wayne Gatt called the commission’s findings against the police “minor in nature” and said he hoped officers would now enjoy “more support and less judgement”.

Dimopoulos is reportedly still recovering from his injuries, which had threatened to cost him the use of his arm.

Hares & Hyenas is continuing to trade during the pandemic lockdown, with books available online for delivery.

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