Victoria Police have admitted to “stuffing up” a bungled raid on Melbourne queer bookstore and bar Hares and Hyenas that left an innocent man seriously injured.
Armed police broke in through the garage of the premises on early Saturday morning.
Bookshop owners Crusader Hills and Rowland Thomson posted on Facebook that the heavily armed police never identified themselves.
Police injured staff member Nik Dimopoulos, throwing him to the ground and restraining him.
His head hit the pavement during the police assault and the police action broke his arm in several places.
The police broke in through the venue’s garage looking for a suspect they described to locals as “an armed member of a ‘Lebanese’ gang.”
“At no stage did they identify themselves as police. They just stormed into a dark room shining torches and it was impossible to identify them as police.
“Nik Dimopoulos, thinking that it was an anti-gay home invasion rushed out the door, downstairs and on to the street.”
The post says the police forcibly detained Dimopoulos without ever ordering him to “stop”.
It says the police tethered his hands “way” behind his back. They had no equipment to remove the restraints even after an ambulance arrived.
Dimopoulos “could only see boots and rifles” and he “said he thought he was about to be killed.”
Meanwhile, police bailed up Crusader Hills while Rowland Thomson searched upstairs for his phone to call the police.
Crusader tried to act as a witness to Nik Dimopoulos’ detention in the gutter. However, police threatened to detain him, though he still refused to move.
Nik Dimopoulos is now “in hospital with the likelihood of losing the use of his left arm.”
The police assault broke the man’s arm in several places from the shoulder down.
“The surgeon described the injury as 12 on a scale of 1 to 10.
“Crusader and Rowland are both shaken but physically fine.
“Nik also has a huge contusion on his head.
“Once again I say AT NO TIME DID THE POLICE IDENTIFY THEMSELVES.”
Nik Dimopoulos underwent surgery on his arm Saturday.
Police response on Hares and Hyenas incident
Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said the police operation was a case of “mistaken identity” and was now under thorough investigation.
“Police stuffed this one up,” Cornelius said.
“Our attendance at the property was a mistake.
“It’s very clear to us that the injuries occasioned by the individual who was arrested by police are very serious, and those injuries demand explanation.”
He offered an apology to Mr Dimopoulos on radio station 3AW on Monday.
“I am appalled and the extent of the injuries that Mr Dimopoulos has suffered,” he said.
“I would be looking to express to Mr Dimopoulos in the most clear terms that I’m very sorry that what has happened to him has happened.”
Earlier, Victoria Police said police followed a vehicle involved in a home invasion and carjacking earlier in the week to near the premise.
Police attempted to intercept the vehicle without success and tracked it to Fitzroy, nearby the queer bookstore.
Multiple specialist units searched the area and raided Hares and Hyenas after reports of a man “fitting a description” at the premises.
“The male sustained serious injuries as a result of the arrest,” a police spokesperson said.
Hares & Hyenas queer bookstore is a Melbourne LGBTIQ community hub.
The venue operates as a bookstore and cafe by day and a bar by night. A much-loved pillar of Melbourne’s queer scene, it attracts a wide cross-section of the LGBTIQ arts and culture communities.
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