Number of deaths from police arrests in Spain increased

by Lorraine Williamson
deaths while under arrest by police

MADRID – A report from the Ministry of the Interior shows that in the past year there have been fifteen deaths after being arrested by the National Police or Guardia Civil. The government admits that the number of cases has increased sharply in 2022.

The report was requested by Jon Iñarritu, EH Bildu’s deputy in parliament. Due to the controversy over the death of a detainee in Mairena (Seville), according to La Voz de Galicia, he wanted an overview of all violent deaths during arrests carried out by the state security forces since the advent of democracy. 

Death of suspect during an arrest 

On September 12, a recording showed how two agents of the Civil Guard beat 37-year-old Carlos to the ground in Mairena del Aljarafe (Seville). According to official information, the officials had been summoned by his own family because of his violent attitude. The suspect greeted the officers by throwing two hammers at them. However, a week later, Carlos died in the hospital. 

The detainee’s father recorded the footage of his son’s arrest and later shared it on Twitter. He then denounced the alleged “cruelty” of the police officials. The events are still being investigated, although the Interior Ministry has classified Carlos’ death as “natural causes” and is completely separating the actions of officers from Carlos’s death. 

First publication on deaths during police arrests 

The ministry has not gone that far in its investigation and has only provided data from April 2015 to November this year. Despite the limitation of the period, it is the first time that the Ministry of the Interior has published official statistics on deaths during the “detention manoeuvres” of suspects. 

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59 deaths in 7.5 years 

In the past seven and a half years, 59 people have died during arrests, arrests or interventions. And in 2022, with 40 days left to calculate in the tables, it is an absolute record of deaths. This year, 15 people were killed during interventions by agents of the Ministry of the Interior. That is more than double the number of recorded deaths in all of 2021. 

The numbers for this year are well above the deaths included in the report for the following years;

  • 9 deaths in 2020
  • 7 in 2019
  • 5 in 2017
  • 5 in 2016
  • 5 in 2015 (only 8 months of 2015 are included in the report)

“Reason” for death 

According to the report, “natural death” was the “reason” for death in 40% of cases (24). An additional 7% of deaths (4 deaths) had the reason “suicide”. According to the ministry headed by Minister Marlaska, the remaining 31 deaths (53% of the total) were “accidental deaths”. 

Comparable distribution between both police forces 

The statistics show that the number of fatal cases involving agents of the National Police and the Guardia Civil is comparable. Although arrests by members of the National Police are responsible for 34 of the 59 deaths analysed (57% of the total), the number of deaths involving Civil Guard officers has increased in recent months. Of the 15 deaths during arrests this year, 9 involved Civil Guard agents. 

Numbers by region 

The department’s statistics, led by Fernando Grande-Marlaska, do not include data on the regional authorities (Ertzaintza, Mossos d’Esquadra or Foral) or the hundreds of local authorities. In these exceptions, especially in Catalonia and the Basque Country, the National Police and the Civil Guard have no powers. Furthermore, the highest number of deaths in the last 7.5 years was in Madrid, with 14 deaths. This is followed by Seville (6 deaths), Cádiz and Almería (5), Valencia (4) and the Balearic Islands (3). 


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