First suspect identified after Malian labourer is shot dead

Local labourer displays picture of Soumayla Sacko

REGGIO CALABRIA – Three days on from the death of Soumayla Sacko, the 29-year-old Malian who was shot dead on Saturday at San Calogero, police have singled out a 43-year-old suspect. 

 The man in question is a farmer called Antonio Pontoriero and the first suspect of the investigation led by local Carabinieri.

 However, Mr Pontoriero has not yet been subjected to interrogation by prosecutor Luca Ciro Lotoro because investigators are still waiting for an examination to be carried out on a “paraffin glove”.

 This may allow the Ris di Messina station to detect particles of gunpowder left on the suspect's hands.

 The two other wounded migrants, who were reportedly picking up sheet metal with Sacko when the incident occurred, have pointed Pontoriero out as the man who shot his rifle four times at them from his vehicle. They reportedly recognised his clothes, even though they were standing about 60 metres away.

 The migrants, who were sent to the Carabinieri of Ris di Messina for a technical inquiry, also identified the first few letters of the number plate of the vehicle in question, which coincide with Pontoriero’s white Fiat Panda.

 If these claims turn out to be true, the farmer will be arrested for murder charges. 

 The suspect’s lawyer, Franco Muzzopappa, simply commented saying: “We trust in justice."

 The Public Prosecutor of Vibo Valentia, who is coordinating the investigation, is allegedly not treating the shooting as a hate crime. Instead he said: "The shooter wanted to show that no intruder could enter that area, especially inside the abandoned factory.”

 Nevertheless, local activists are still claiming that the crime was racially motivated.

 Father Roberto Meduri, a priest who campaigns for migrants' rights, said: "Soumaila is dead because someone around here decided he should be. Here it's not only the mafia, cancer or lack of health care that kills you, racism does too."