A gay man from Tukums, Latvia, died of burns Wednesday (28 April) that nearly covered his entire body after a disgruntled neighbour allegedly doused him with flammable liquid.
Normunds Kindzulis, a 29-year-old medical assistant, suffered burns on 85 per cent of his body on 23 April in the sleepy, historic town filled with red-bricked churches and wood-carding mills.
But after a scuffle allegedly broke out in the apartment complex he lived in, he had his clothing soaked with fuel and was lit on fire in what advocates are urging the police to consider as a homophobic hate crime.
Another gay man suffered burns as he desperately sought to save Kindzulis as he was engulfed in a fire that razed the building.
Kindzulis was rushed to Riga, the capital of Latvia, for treatment. In a tragic turn, however, the European Pride Organisers Association confirmed on Twitter Wednesday that it had learned that Kindzulis had passed away.
He was, the group said, a “victim of [a] homophobic arson attack”.
Normunds Kindzulis, a victim of the homophobic arson attack in Latvia last week, has succumbed to his injuries. Our deepest condolences to his partner and family, and to all our community in Latvia. 🖤 pic.twitter.com/IM90oTk80E
— EuroPride • EPOA (@EuroPride) April 28, 2021
According to Euractiv, local police initially refused to open an investigation, but Kindzulis’ death has brought an urgent need to do so.
“Bringing someone to the brink of suicide is also a crime,” officer Andrejs Grishins told reporters Thursday, the outlet said.
Kindzulis’s biography was once of strength and vigilance. He had received homophobic death threats in the past and fled to Tukums, which is some 70 kilometres from Riga.
But in the quiet town, he was met with all-too-familiar violence. He was physically assaulted at least four times.
The second victim told Tukums Independent News, a local newspaper, how the pair had reported to the authorities how their neighbour threatened and jeered at them in the five-story building they lived in.
“We reported these threats to both the police and the neighbour’s workplace, but there was no reaction,” he said.
“We had to wait for someone to be mutilated or killed.”
All the while on his social media accounts, Kindzulis raved about Eurovision, shared photos of his travels and camping trips around Latvia and cared for his cat.
His death has come to expose the fault lines of Latvia, a European Union member state that has long resisted recognising LGBT+ people.
The attack even attracted the attention of president Egils Levits, who tweeted that “there is no place for hate in Latvia”.
Naidam Latvijā nav vietas. Ja apstiprināsies, ka Tukuma noziedznieka motivācija ir bijusi naids pret kādu sabiedrības daļu, tad tas pastiprina viņa vainu. Latvijas sabiedrības vērtība ir iecietība, un šāda naida izpausme vienlaikus ir noziegums pret sabiedrību.
— Egils Levits (@valstsgriba) April 24, 2021
However, the Latvian parliament, the Saeima, overwhelmingly voted to tweak the constitution to define the family strictly as a “union of a male and female person” earlier this year.
Activists across the world paid tribute to Kindzulis which, to so many, not only signalled the depth of anger felt towards queer folk in Latvia but the very need for Pride and the LGBT+ rights movement itself.
If we think we're anywhere near having equality in the world, think again. Many countries where your life and well-being are at risk for your sexuality. I read with some shock yesterday a tweet from a gay guy about homophobic taunts 'not being that bad' #Normundskindzulis https://t.co/2bvMtzrskf
— jonhaywooduk (@jonhaywooduk) April 30, 2021
For those of you who don’t understand why there “still” is pride month and pride parades it’s because crimes like Normunds Kindzulis still happen and they shouldn’t and so many more go unnoticed.
— Francisco Afonso (@franciscafonsoo) May 1, 2021
I’m in tears hearing that sadly Normunds Kindzulis one of the gay men set on fire a few days ago in Latvia has died of his injuries.
Can you just stop murdering us? Please.
Rest in Power Normunds. 😥https://t.co/TyxbCT3Lyy
— Scott Cuthbertson (@ScotCuthbertson) April 30, 2021
This is beyond words
— Andy Legon (@AndrewLegon) April 30, 2021