A Latvian man who was set ablaze in a possible hate crime originally dismissed by police as a pile of burning clothes has died from his injuries. Euractiv reported Normunds Kindzulis, 29, died Wednesday, April 28, after he was set ablaze allegedly by his homophobic neighbor in the early morning hours of Tuesday, April 22, in the town of Tukums. Artis Jaunklavins, his roommate, woke up to discover his friend fully engulfed in flames outside their door, and suffered burns as well trying to extinguish the fire. But according to a report in Delfi News, police are not just investigating the death as a possible hate crime, but also have not ruled out death by suicide as well.
“I woke up from screams in the corridor. Normunds was flaming like a torch,” Artis Jaunklavins told Delfi. “I tried to put out the flames, I carried him in and put him in the bath but the burns were too severe, his clothing had fried into his skin.”
“We will investigate objectively, regardless of people’s affiliation with a certain race or group of people,” Andrejs Grisins, deputy chief of state police, told Delfi. “The state police have never sorted people by any affiliation in their investigations and applications.”
However, Delfi later issued an apology for a segment of the television program Pannorama where Katažina Careva, prosecutor of the Riga eastern prosecutor’s office revealed Kindzulis was the subject of a criminal arson investigation in 2019 and had been treated for mental illness.
Grishins echoed a similar vein when he told reporters Kindzulis might have been driven to taking his own life by his hateful and homophobic neighbor.
“Bringing someone to the brink of suicide is also a crime,” he told reporters last week.
Kindzulis was allegedly set ablaze in the early morning hours of April 22. According to an account, the neighbor reportedly not only wanted them to move out of their shared apartment building, but also out of the town as well. Kindzulis and Jaunklavins had reported the numerous threats they received from their homophobic neighbor to police, but to no avail.
A representative for the State Police confirmed they had received a report about the threatening neighbor but decided not to do anything about the case.
“Previously, once in November 2020, the victim had reported the threats to the police,” Janeks Bach of the Tukums district said. “Following examination of this information, a decision was taken to refuse to initiate criminal proceedings and no appeal was lodged against this decision.”
Kindzulis was remembered as a strong and loyal friend, and his Instagram page is filled with pictures of him sharing drinks with friends or lounging at home with his cat. Meanwhile, police continue to investigate, although they have released few details.