Reporting possible murder suspect sighting ends in 'miscommunication' with police

In mid-April it will be a year since Leons Rusiņš killed his ex-partner in front of children with an axe. The suspect is still at large as police have failed to find and detain him, and have repeatedly asked the public to immediately report sightings.

In a worrying development, Latvian Television's 4. studija (Studio 4) show was contacted by a viewer who spotted a similar-looking man, and called the police, but received only mockery in return, LTV reported March 5.

While waiting in a cafe for an order, Gints Kauniste's attention was caught by the gentleman at the next table.

“I felt like I'd seen that face somewhere. First association [..] that it is Leons Rusiņš,“ Kauniste said.

Kauniste immediately compared a photo of Rusiņš available on the internet to a man dining at the Salacgrīva cafe, as well as carefully tried to take a picture of him. He then went to another room to call the police.

State Police (VP) first received the message at 15:56.

“No one comes. I saw that there were green vans – municipal police. One passes in the distance. I think when is there going to be some movement? Nothing happens,” Kauniste said.

Fearing the alleged killer could end his meal and disappear, Kauniste called police for the second time, at 16:15.

“We are talking about the most wanted person in Latvia,” he emphasized, “I call the service again, connect to Limbaži, to the duty officer.”

He restated the situation to the duty officer and asked the law enforcement officers to attend, but received a response: “Well, yes, we're already flying, in a helicopter.”

Police response surprised Kauniste: “It felt absolutely mocking. I'm not a cop. I care, I see, I call. We are all trying to catch this man who committed the crime and is still at large as far as I understand because of this same police inaction.”

Imants Mitrašenko, head of the State Police Vidzeme Region Administration, admitted that listening to the recordings of the talks reveals that communication has not been successful and both sides have been “quite emotionally excited.”

“'First of all, I would like to thank this man and everyone else who informs the police of such similar cases. I can assure you that the State Police do not have helicopters themselves, and there is no need to tell the officer [what Kauniste did]. [They] Simply wound each other up unnecessarily. Accordingly, the communication was not quite business-like, but ultimately the problem was solved,” explained Mitrašenko.

The VP is said to have contacted local government police, who were closest to the scene at the time. Kauniste also testified that he had been talking to female police officers and tried to show them the photo he had taken. “This result was that the person was confronted, checked and it was found that this was not Mr Rusiņš,” Mitrašenko confirmed.

Cabinet of Ministers (BOM) regulations in situations that law enforcement officers call “category A calls” in their working environment require police in regions to respond within 25 minutes, which is also said to have been done in Salacgrīva. Under no circumstances should citizens risk and try to detain the alleged criminal themselves. If the suspicious person does leave, residents are asked to record the direction in which they are leaving and the car number plate.

“All information is now collected, collected, analyzed. Colleagues work professionally enough and absolutely we'll catch him sometime too. It's a matter of time. But these calls are very necessary and important,” Mitrašenko said.

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