Officer who fatally shot unarmed Ethiopian teen 5 years ago acquitted, family outraged

Acquittal of the police officer who was involved in a fatal confrontation with an 18-year-old Solomon Tekah nearly five years ago provoked a powerful reaction from the dead teen's family; 'Now the police have a license to kill children'

Following the acquittal of the police officer who fatally shot Solomon Tekah, his sister reacted sharply. She was heard shouting in the Haifa court: "Now the police have a license to kill children."
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סלומון טקה
סלומון טקה
Solomon Tekah
The verdict was handed down on Tuesday, five years after the incident in which the officer fired a warning shot at the sidewalk when Tekah, aged 18, and three of his friends threw stones at him. The ricocheted bullet hit Tekah, striking the major blood vessels in his chest, leading to his immediate death. The incident on June 20, 2019, led to several days of violent protests throughout Israel by Israelis of Ethiopian origin.
Despite Tekah's family demand that the officer to be charged with murder, the Department for the Investigation of Police decided to indict him for causing death by negligence. He was acquitted of this charge as well. During the reading of the verdict, Tekah's father and sister, and later his mother, left the courtroom. Despite their departure, the judge addressed Tekah's family, expressing deep condolences and stating: "Justice does not only work for one side."
Yemi, Solomon's sister, said after the officer's acquittal: "Now the police have permission to kill our young people. We couldn't continue to sit in the courtroom and listen to the judge's words. It hurt us very much. The judge accepted the officer's entire account, while my brother lies in the cemetery. Our entire family was hurt by this shooting. We feel like Solomon is being murdered every day."
Solomon's mother, after the acquittal, expressed the family's pain. "We are hurting, we live in pain, not just us but also our children. For a whole month, the children did not sleep. We knew he would not convict him. We knew that. We left the court because we couldn't bear the judge's words, we couldn't continue to hear what he was saying," she said.
"Even if we appeal or even contemplate an appeal, we don't believe there will be justice here, since we are not the first," the teen's father said. "Before Solomon, 13 boys were killed by the Israel Police. None of them received justice, and no one was imprisoned following their killing. We do not harbor the hope or the thought that we will succeed in a retrial. We've been crying for 4 years and 8 months, and nothing has happened. We leave justice and the trial to God, beyond that, we have nothing to do with it. We embarked on this journey holding faith, truth, and the righteousness of the path. They clung to a lie, but one day, God will judge and deliver justice."

Reactions to the ruling

Attorney Ronen Yitzhak, representing the police, expressed condolences to the Tekah family after the officer's acquittal. "Firstly, we want to express condolences to the Tekah family, to his parents and family members. Essentially, throughout the process, Internal Affairs believed that the officer's shooting was contrary to police procedure on the matter, and hence was negligent," the attorney said. He added that they would review the 208-page verdict to understand its reasoning and decide on the next steps.
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הכרעת הדין בגרימת המוות של סלומון טקה
הכרעת הדין בגרימת המוות של סלומון טקה
Court ruling upsets Solomon's family
(Photo: Gil Nechushtan)
Later, the police clarified that "the indictment filed in 2019 by Attorney Yitzhak suggests that the officer's negligence was primarily expressed in the fact that he fired a warning shot toward the asphalt, near the feet of the deceased and his friends, in complete contradiction to the police procedures and orders on the matter, which in those circumstances allowed a warning shot to the air, at most." Yitzhak added that:"The court ruled today that the filing of the indictment by Internal Affairs was justified and that they acted appropriately and professionally, both in conducting the investigation and in deciding to file the indictment and manage the case."
The Association of Ethiopian Jews criticized the officer's acquittal. "The duty and role of the judicial system in Israel is to lead a perception whereby the fate of any police officer who fails in his role, whether due to racist views or due to lack of professionalism, is to be behind bars. There should be no place in the Israel Police for officers who do not perform their role properly and lead to the unnecessary killing of citizens," the group said in a statement. The group's statement expressed concern that "the court chose to acquit the officer, thereby sending a wrong message to the public, according to which officers who fail in their role and act contrary to the law are protected by the judicial system that abandons its citizens." They called for the prosecution and the police to ensure the public interest and insist on filing an appeal to the District Court, until the officer is brought to true justice.
Attorney Yair Nadashi, who represented the officer, commended the court on its decision. "I hope that this marks the end of the long and unnecessary journey that the officer has undergone, even though he acted as he did by virtue of being a police officer and by virtue of what is expected of him as a police office," he said. He added that the "Israel Police was blessed with a valuable, brave, wise, intelligent and upright officer." He pointed out that the court found the officer's account believable and preferred it over the version presented by Internal Affairs in the indictment, which he described as "incorrect, full of holes, and without substantial data that should have been brought in the indictment."
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