Indonesia murder trial puts spotlight on alleged police impunity
By a former U.S. official on April 7, 2017
Photo: James Lawler Dugan
MUSKEGON, MI – A former U.S. official has written about his time as a senior State Department official in Indonesia.
Last December, in the early hours of a crisp November morning, a man in his mid-20s walked into a small apartment in Muskegon, carrying a loaded 9-mm handgun. He shot 14-year-old Aniya Hassan, who was sitting on the floor studying at a desk, and then, fatally, shot himself.
For much of October, people in Muskegon and across the country have been reeling from the murder of Aniya. The teenager’s father, Adi, has spoken to the media, expressing his faith in the local police. But in late October, Aniya’s story was about to be tested by local officials, who were preparing to press charges against the police officer suspected in her killing.
“They would have to see if there was enough evidence to charge someone—and in this case, the police officer is suspected,” said John O’Brien, chief counsel of the nonprofit international law firm Covington. “One of the ways we would look at this is to put the local police forces under pressure so it’s almost impossible for them to do the right thing.”
But at that time, the case was about to move beyond local police forces and the families of young people killed by police. In an interview with VOA on the night of Aniya’s murder, Muskegon Police Chief James W. Ruchalski did not deny that the department was investigating any crime that might have occurred.
Ruchalski has said he does not have any reason to believe he was involved, but many people in Muskegon do not buy that version of events.
“I knew he was doing a good job and doing a good job as the Muskegon Police Department chief; he didn’t give me any indication