BEIJING (AP) — Beijing prosecutors said they have arrested two police officers on charges of negligence nearly two months after a man's death in their custody sparked nationwide concern over police abuse.
The prosecutor's office said Thursday that an autopsy revealed the man, Lei Yang, died of suffocation, with symptoms consistent with the contents of one's stomach entering the respiratory system. The conclusion contradicted earlier police suggestions that Lei, 29, died of a heart attack.
The prosecutors said police acted improperly in detaining Lei, who was interrogated on suspicion of visiting prostitutes in the capital's suburban Changping district on May 7.
They said police also hampered the investigation of Lei's death, but did not elaborate.
Chen Youxi, lawyer for Lei's family, said the report showed Lei died from external forces.
"A crucial point has been solved, and that's whether the death was caused by outside forces or pathological reasons," Chen said. "Only some outside force could cause the food content from his stomach to be in his respiratory system and lead to suffocation."
Chen said in a statement that police had fabricated and hidden evidence and misled public opinion.
He said the report by prosecutors was a promising sign that justice would be upheld.
Shortly after Lei's death, police released a statement saying he had refused to cooperate and was forcibly taken into a vehicle, but still put up a fierce fight. It said Lei then had a heart attack and was rushed to a hospital where he was declared dead, according to media reports.
Lei's family questioned the police account, while police tried to divert public attention to Lei's morals.
Long wary of police abuse, members of the public demanded a thorough investigation.
In a sign of the case's significance, high-profile lawyers, including Chen, were hired to represent Lei's family and the police officers.