Police mistakenly raided the apartment attached to popular Fitzroy LGBTI bookstore and performance space Hares & Hyenas in the early hours of Saturday morning, hospitalising a resident.
The raid occurred around 2am, with armed officers allegedly failing to identify themselves as they looked for a suspected carjacker.
“Nik Dimopoulos, thinking that it was an anti-gay home invasion, rushed out the door, downstairs and onto the street where he was forcefully detained.
“At no time did the police when they were chasing him say ‘stop, police’ as you would expect.
“He had his hands tethered behind his back way beyond what can be endured, and then they had no implement to remove them even after an ambulance had been called.
“He could only see boots and rifles and was assuming he was going to be bashed or shot.
“He said he thought he was about to be killed.”
Dimopoulos was hospitalised with severe injuries including a shattered arm and shoulder, and has undergone major surgery, The Age reported.
Hillis’ account of the raid has gone viral on social media, with supporters expressing their horror over the incident.
Performer Mama Alto accused the police of a “culture of brutal, violent and excessive force”.
Activist Nic Holas called on the queer community to contact their MPs to demand an investigation into police brutality, saying he felt “shock, horror and outrage”.
Victoria Police have said that the botched raid is being investigated internally.
A spokesperson said that police had been tracking a speeding stolen vehicle, identified as having been involved in an alleged home invasion and carjacking.
“Police attempted to intercept the vehicle without success and it was tracked to Fitzroy,” they said.
“A male at a property fitting a description given to members was observed at an address on Johnston Street just before 2:30 am.
“The male was arrested on a roadway after leaving through a front door.”
Police have acknowledged that Dimopoulos was wrongly arrested.
“The man police arrested was mistakenly identified as the suspect police were searching for that had fled the stolen vehicle nearby,” said the spokesperson.
“Victoria Police acknowledge the distress this situation has caused the victim and the incident will be thoroughly investigated by Professional Standards Command.
“As the investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”
Police Minister Lisa Neville is demanding a “full explanation” of the raid.
Victorian Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality Ro Allen said the bookstore and its owners were “extremely important” to the community.
“I am appalled at what has happened,” she said.
“These men are Victorian LGBTIQ royalty and my heart is broken.”
Dimopoulos is expected to take legal action against the police.
“These completely innocent people are understandably deeply traumatised by these events and their significant injuries,” said Jeremy King of Robinson Gill Lawyers.
Victoria Police have been criticised in the past for excessive force and for a sometimes fraught relationship with the LGBTI community, but in recent years have made efforts to be more inclusive and trustworthy.
The investigation into the weekend’s incident is expected to include determining whether officers were aware Hares & Hyenas is an LGBTI venue.
— Dean Beck (@DeanBeckOnAir) May 11, 2019
Queers, this is an important opportunity to use our platform and privilege to not only seek justice for Nik, Crusader, Rowland and Hares but also to address ongoing police brutality in this state, for those intersecting communities who do not have our organising power or access.
— Nic Holas (@nicheholas) May 12, 2019
My heart breaks after the horrendous & unacceptable police brutality at Hares & Hyenas in Fitzroy this weekend. We call for accountability, transparency & an end to the culture of brutal, violent & excessive force.
— Mama Alto (@MamaAlto) May 12, 2019
What the fuck Vic Police??
Sending all my love to Nik and the @Hares_Hyenas family 🌈📚 this is a gross absolutely horrible injustice and invasion of one of the most heartening and warm queer spaces run by the most lovey people in Melbourne, #vicpol have to face consequences https://t.co/zy0vZKVvU0
— Jes Layton (@AGeekwithaHat) May 11, 2019
Deeply shocking. Thoughts are with Nik & the Hares & Hyenas family.
There’s a long history of targeting LGBTIQ communities & this will be painful for many people in Melb.
There must be full investigation into this & action to stop it happening again. https://t.co/prkJnVnxoH
— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) May 12, 2019
If you’re in Naarm/Melbourne, go in to @Hares_Hyenas, buy a book/s, thank them for being a queer space. If you aren’t, buy some from their website https://t.co/oTuzWkxymZ. Follow them on social media. Solidarity and love 🏳️🌈
— The Flying Bats (@TheFlyingBats) May 12, 2019