Police officer facing investigation for Itaewon Halloween crush in South Korea found dead

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A South Korean police officer, under investigation following the deaths of 156 people in a Halloween night crowd crush in downtown Seoul, was found dead at his home in the capital on Friday. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted unnamed police officials confirming the deceased status of the police official, identified by his surname Jeong.

The 55-year-old was in charge of intelligence affairs at the Yongsan Police Station covering the capital Seoul’s Itaewon entertainment district where the tragedy took place on October 29. 

ALSO READ | South Korea declares national mourning after 152 killed in Seoul Halloween stampede

Yongsan Police Station was raided by the investigators as part of the investigation into failures by officials in the Itaewon area to respond effectively to the overcrowding of the entertainment district on October 29.

Earlier, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency had reported that the now-deceased police officer had ordered the deletion of an internal intelligence report on a likely safety accident in the Itaewon entertainment district during Halloween celebrations.

ALSO READ | South Korea Halloween crush: The tragedy was avoidable, experts say

“Jeong has been facing suspicions that after the tragedy, he ordered the deletion of an internal intelligence report giving prior warnings of a possible safety accident during the Halloween period in a suspected attempt to cover up inaction,” Yonhap reported.

“Charges raised against him included abuse of authority, destruction of evidence and professional negligence resulting in death,” the news agency reported, adding that the officer was suspended from duties on Wednesday.

WATCH | Explained | How is a crowd crush different from a stampede?

The Seoul police chief, Seoul mayor and the country’s interior minister issued public apologies after October 29, admitting to the collective failure. The South Korean media reported that the Police did not respond to 7 of the 11 calls made by members of the public to report the overcrowding of the entertainment district, a revelation that stoked anger against the authorities all across South Korea. 

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