Christy Schwundeck moved to Germany in an attempt to provide a better life for herself.
The Nigerian, from Benin City, moved to the European country in 1995, and applied for asylum like many others before her and after her.
According to Spiegel, she worked as a cleaning lady and assistant worker before gaining a residence permit. Her desire to immerse herself in German culture meant that she learned the language, appreciated tradition, and eventually married her husband Peter Schwundeck, who was also German.
It may have seemed like things were coming together for Christy, but like many, there were difficult periods in her life. She separated from her husband and allegedly battled with depression.
After moving to Frankfurt, Christy fell on hard times and had to apply for Hartz IV welfare support – a welfare benefits system in Germany which was considered controversial at the time the reform was passed in 2003.
The reform changed the way the Government handled poverty and Christy was one of the many citizens who struggled with the Hartz IV benefits system after losing her job.
On May 19, 2011, a then 39-year-old Christy entered a job centre to enquire about her unemployment benefits, hoping to receive a €10 cash advance.
According to the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), the clerk “refused to give her any money and told her to leave the premises. Christy refused to do so and remained seated in the employment office. She was determined to stay until she was given at least enough money to buy something to eat.”
The clerk allegedly alerted the centre’s security guard while Christy remained seated. The centre deputy supervisor offered her a food voucher but Christy still remained seated and chose not to accept the voucher.
At this time, a distress call was made to the police due to Christy refusing to leave the building. Two police officers arrived shortly after, with Christy reportedly injuring one officer in the arm with a knife while the other shouted to her “drop the knife or I’ll shoot!”.
It’s alleged that Christy turned around to the police officer who later shot her and she died in the hospital from injuries.
The shooting caused shockwaves in Germany, by those angered by Christy’s tragic death but also due to the unclear reports, inconsistencies within the case and its eventual closure.
In a 2012 article, it was announced that the investigation into Christy’s death would close nine months after the shooting.
The article stated: “The public prosecutor’s reason for this decision is essential that, after evaluating all the testimony, no sufficient suspicion arose regarding the commission of a crime. Rather, the accused had an admissible act of self-defence according to Section 32 of the Criminal Code.
“The act of defense was necessary, among other things, because Christy acted uncontrollably with a knife and did not stop doing so despite being asked to put the knife down. The action is also related to the threat and to avert it.”
This self-defence angle has been criticised by supporters. According to Christy’s relatives’ lawyers, “no other witness on record said that she was moving in the direction of the official,” placing the police officer’s ‘self defence claims’ into question.
In addition, the death of Christy raised question towards the treatment of those on benefits and the way in which minorities are treated in Germany- particualrly as media branded Christy as a “raving madwoman, of aggression, hatred and anger.”
With no thorough investigation or trial to provide clarity on what really happened that morning, Christy’s death resulted in no justice or opportunity for the truth to come out.
Her husband, Peter said in 2012: “My wife was shot because of unemployment benefits of 10 euros and now it shouldn’t even be in court? You can’t just do something like that!”.
Christy left behind her parents in Nigeria, her brother, husband, and a 12-year-old daughter.
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