By Maria Jesus Corrales
La Linea fell silent at midday yesterday as a mark of respect for Victor Sánchez, the 46-year old municipal police officer who died on Wednesday night while chasing a suspected tobacco smuggler.
Sr Sánchez, who was from Algeciras and married with two young daughters, died after he was accidentally hit by a police van also involved in the chase.
Addressing reporters yesterday after the minute’s silence, La Linea mayor Juan Franco read a statement that had been agreed by all political parties in the city.
“We are witnessing dangerous situations that are becoming increasingly common and are putting at risk citizens’ lives, including those of the law enforcement agencies,” he said.
An investigation is now under way to establish the exact circumstances that led to the policeman’s death.
But Sr Franco said early indications were the incident started after the Rapid Response Unit of La Linea’s Policia Local tried to stop a moped rider suspected of involvement in tobacco smuggling.
The moped sped off into the Reina Sofia park close to the border, pursued by a police van and Sr Sánchez on foot.
It was during the chase that the police officer appears to have been hit by the van, causing him fatal injuries, according to Sr Franco.
The moped rider fled the scene.
The tragic incident comes against the backdrop of mounting social concern about the activities of organised crime gangs in the Campo de Gibraltar.
Law enforcement agencies, community groups and politicians of all parties have called for additional personnel and resources to tackle increasingly brazen gangs.
Yesterday Sr Franco said that once the mourning period was over, he would meet with other politicians and officials to “demand preventative measures” to address the situation.
La Linea town council declared three days of official mourning for the officer, with all official functions cancelled for that period and flags flying at half mast.
There were similar acts of mourning in municipalities across the Campo de Gibraltar.
The Chronicle understands Chief Minister Fabian Picardo expressed condolences to Sr Franco on behalf of Gibraltar. Police Commissioner Eddie Yome also contacted his counterparts in La Linea.
A community demonstration was also held last night in La Linea calling for a tougher response to crime in the Campo.