Rome Travel Guide

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gabbo: The Death and Life of Gabriele Sandri

"GABBO SEMPRE CON NOI!"   Written on a wall in the Centro.  But who was Gabbo? 

A few days later, in our Tuscolano neighborhood:

i nostri colori                 our colors
ci              divide us...
mentalita ci                    mentality
unisce, "GOBBO"         unites us, "GOBBO" 

Was Gobbo "Gabbo"?  And who was Gabbo?

We learned that Gabbo was short for Gabriele, and Gabriele was linked to another name.  This in Tivoli:  "Gabriele Vive...Spaccarotella Muori!"  Gabriele lives...Spaccarotella dies!"  And on a wall in Monteverde Vecchio: "Spaccarotella infame!"   Spaccarotella infamous!

In a small piazza near Piazza Bologna, stickers had been placed on road signs:

Spaccarotella      Spaccarotella
Pisceremo           We piss on        
Tua Tomba         Your grave

Gabriele "Gabbo" Sandri and Luigi Spaccarotella were protagonists in a deadly drama played out on L'Autostrada del Sole (the Highway of the Sun), otherwise known as the A1.  It was the morning of November 11, 2007, a Sunday, and all over Italy soccer fans were traveling to root for their favorite teams. 

Gabriele Sandri
Gabriele, 26, was a professional DJ and a Lazio "Ultra"--a hard-core Lazio fan--and he was traveling with buddies to Milan for a game with the Inter team.  The young men had pulled off the highway into the Badio al Pino service area near Arezzo, and a scuffle or fight had broken out with a group of supporters of Juventus, a Turin squad.  From the service area on the other side of the highway--divided by a chain-link fence--a highway patrol policeman, Spaccarotella, had observed the quarrel across the way.  Pulling his gun, he ran to the fence and fired a warning shot into the air.  The young men scattered, and Gabriele and his friends jumped into their car and headed for the entrance to the highway.  According to a video [below] (apparently shown later in the courtroom), Spaccarotella ran along the fence, then stopped, aimed, and fired his gun twice, hitting Gabriele--sitting in the middle of the front seat--in the neck, and killing him.  The "action" in the video begins after about 15 seconds. 

As the case worked its way through an inquiry and the court system, the tragic death of Gabriele Sandri--"Gabbo"--came to represent not just police violence but the inadequacies of the Italian judicial system.  Spaccarotella had claimed that his gun had gone off by accident, while he was running, and so the original inquiry was based on a manslaughter charge.  The prosecutor was unconvinced, and so was Gabriele's father, Giorgio Sandri, who appeared at the March, 2008 hearing, angry at Spaccarotella's absence and convinced that he had aimed and fired his gun with intent.  "He doesn't have the courage to look us in the eyes," Sandri said, adding, "he knows well that what he did he didn't do because he was inciampato (stumbling).  In us the emotion is strong, and the anger stronger still." 
The court eventually found Spaccarotella guilty of "culpable homicide" and sentenced him to 6 years in prison; the prosecution had asked for 14 years, partly on the grounds that Spaccarotella had made a fraudulent claim.  Reached soon after by telephone, Spaccarotella said "I cried with joy.  I have done well to believe in justice."

Many Italians didn't see it that way.  No sooner was the verdict and sentence announced than outcries filled the courtroom and the hallways outside.  Giorgio Sandri was once again outraged, and his wife, Daniela, bitterly remarked, "Now they've killed me a second time.  A shame for all of Italy."  Lazio Ultras considered the verdict "against all of them" and attacked two police facilities, including one at Ponte Milvio in Rome.  Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno--a former bad boy and probably a Lazio fan--expressed his dissatisfaction with the sentence, noting that the crime had affected the entire city.  He hoped the sentence would be reconsidered on appeal "so as not to leave the Roman sporting world with a deep sense of injustice." 

Spaccarotella had vowed to appeal the verdict and sentence, and it seems he did so; RST could find no evidence that he was actually serving his term. 

The sentence was reconsidered.  Based on a finding of "intentionality," in December, 2010 a Florence appeals court increased the sentence to 9 years 4 months.  The court argued that even if Spaccarotella's goal had been to stop the vehicle and its occupants from fleeing, he took an excessive risk in shooting at the car.  Hence the result--the death of Sandri--could not be understood as the product of "pure chance."

Gabbo's memory lived on, as the graffiti reveal. 
He was remembered in 2009, at the final of the Champions League game between Manchester United and Lazio.  Fans displayed a huge poster at one end of the field--the Lazio curva/curve, where the team's fans congregated.  Lazio players wore "Gabbo" t-shirts under their game jerseys.  Although Gabriele was a Lazio Ultra--on principle, reviled by fans of the Roma team--on this occasion even Roma supporters, who always sit on the curva sud, the south curve, when their team plays at Rome's Olympic Stadium, lent their support.  One banner read, "Gabbo: Uno di Noi!  Curva Sud."  Gabbo: One of Us! Curva Sud." 

A video, "Ciao Gabbo," tells the story of that day's tribute, which included a most extraordinary act of inter-team solidarity.  Before the game, Lazio's captain accompanied Roma's captain, Francesco Totti, as Totti placed flowers below the poster of Gabriele:  the famed leader of AS Roma, the symbol and idol of the Curva Sud, honoring a SS Lazio Ultra--at the Curva Nord. 


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