Young love, a secret pregnancy and a standoff with the police have created a bit a mystery over the past weekend, raising questions about the circumstances that led to the death of a teen.
Raz Atias and his girlfriend, whose name has yet to be released, began dating only a few weeks ago. He had graduated from high school this past summer, and was about to join the army. She had just started her senior year in high school.
But on Thursday night, the two ended up in the woods near Beit Shemesh, planning to commit a double suicide, according to a note Atias e-mailed to a television news show. By early Friday morning, Atias was shot dead by volunteer police officers. The girl – the only witness who could shed light on what really happened – has yet to tell the tale.
With the soil still fresh on Atias' grave, the police are trying to piece together the chain of events of that fateful night.
According to his family, Atias, 18, was a funny and kind teenager who wanted to enlist with an elite naval commando unit but was awaiting the results of the screening conducted by the army. The two met in a boarding school in the north of the country. They have only been dating for a short while, but he had already managed to warm his way into her family's heart.
"He was a friendly, sweet kid," the teenage girl's mother said after the incident.
Last week, the girl, 17, was hospitalized for pain in her abdomen, and that was when she found out she was pregnant. She kept the news secret from her parents, her mother said.
Atias told his parents of the pregnancy, and his mother, Ricki Atias, insisted on accompanying him on his hospital visit. In a conversation with the two teens, she mentioned the possibility of terminating the pregnancy, while anti-abortion activists operating in the hospital also attempted to influence the girl.
When the pregnant teen was discharged later that week, Ricki Atias picked the couple up from the hospital and dropped the girl off back at the boarding school, the former said.
"When we returned home, he locked himself in his room," the mom said. "We didn't want to pressure him."
According to the girl's friends and the boarding school's principal, the boy's parents refused to allow the couple's relationship to go on.
The following day, Ricki Atias returned to her home in Petah Tikvah around 9 pm, to be told by her husband, Major Ofer Atias, that their son had gone to meet some friends on a Tel Aviv beach.
What they did not know was that two hours earlier, their son had sent a message to Channel 2 News, notifying the program that he and his girlfriend were planning to end their lives, due to personal matters, and that a suicide letter for both their families was left at Atias' home.
"On the evening of October 18, 2012, a young couple will commit suicide in the woods," he wrote. "You can find out where we are, using my Facebook check-in. Good luck with the news coverage, I hope you find us… I would appreciate it if you notified our families. Thank you… Please don't try to stop us."
In a letter left in his desk, Atias asked for forgiveness and understanding.
In her brief testimony after the incident, the girl told the police that she had spoken with her friends about the couple's intention to commit suicide together.
"The decision to end their lives appears to have been his, and she supported him," the girl's mother said. "He was in distress, and didn't know how to come out of it."
His father's gun
How involved was she in the decision? Was his message to the reporters a cry for help? These details remain unclear. What is known is that before leaving home on Thursday evening, Atias grabbed the gun that his father, an army officer, kept under his pillow. Around 11 pm, he picked up the girl from her home.
The police, who were informed of the suicide note by Channel 2, began searching for the couple and notified Atias' parents.
Ricki Atias, Raz' mom (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Ricki Atias then called the girlfriend, who swore that she wasn't with Raz. She then spoke with her son, who appeared to calm down and promise that he would not go on with the plan. Instead, he said, he would meet his friends on the beach, as he had originally planned.
The parents had asked the police to hold off on pursuing him immediately, the mother said, and the police agreed to send an undercover cop to stop the teen once he had gotten together with his friends. The police denied agreeing to such terms.
The girl's mom, who was kept in the loop by the police, made an attempt to get the couple to return to her house.
"When I was told that they made some kind of an attempt to escape, I called them and told them to come home, and that we would find a solution together," she said. "I called them and told my daughter, come home; I will take care of everything. We will arrange everything for you."
They had agreed, she said. But a car crash derailed that plan.
According to the initial probe, Raz Atias and his girlfriend stopped in the woods near Beit Shemesh around 1 am, and he fired a shot in the air, evidently to test the gun. They could have gone through with the suicide then and there, but they didn't. Instead, they returned to the car and continued down Highway 395 towards Beit Shemesh.
Atias, who was upset, drove over the speed limit and hit a crash barrier. It was then that they were noticed by a volunteer police unit and the events spiraled out of control.
Screenshot from Raz Atias' facebook page
According to the police, the officers – who were unaware that the passengers were the sought-after couple – rushed to help the crash victims. While the couple remained seated in the car, Atias took the gun and pointed it at the girl's head.
The teenage girl then tried to stop her boyfriend from killing himself or her, according to her mother.
"(She told him) don't shoot me, I don't want to die," the mother said. "She begged him, and he relented. She put her head down, and then he pointed the gun at the cops."
According to the police, Atias then fired at the volunteer officers. One was lightly injured and fell to the ground. Another officer then opened fire on the vehicle. Meanwhile, the girl managed to get out of the car.
"The incident lasted a few minutes, and the shots were fired from a short distance," the police said. "Under these kinds of circumstances there is no time to negotiate."
Sources who witnessed the standoff said that the officers fired several shots and hit Atias twice, in his head and chest. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
'He didn't deserve to die this way'The teen's grieving family blasted the police for the incident.
"How could they have shot him in the head," one relative pondered after indentifying Atias' body. "We know that the boy was on his way home. He was in distress. The police should have waited for the parents to arrive and meet him. Instead, they sprayed the car with bullets."
Their questions are to be addressed in an internal investigation into the cops' conduct, but an initial probe shows that the volunteers were given no choice but to open fire, the police said.
The girl, who was initially hospitalized in Jerusalem, returned home on Saturday and began the long road towards recovering from the trauma.
On Saturday evening, her mother told reporters that the shocked teen will get an abortion.
"Our plan is to make her better," the mom said. "She needs to move on. Of course, we won't continue the pregnancy, she's only 17. This will terminate our relationship with the Atias family."
She offered her condolences to the boy's family, but said things could have turned out differently had they informed her of what was going on.
"He didn't deserve to die this way," she said.
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