Off-duty cop implicated in killing of Ethiopian teen charged with negligent homicide
The indictment states the defendant was pelted with stones by Solomon Tekah and 2 other teens and suffered a subchorionic hemorrhage, prompting him to fire off one bullet into the ground which ricocheted and killed the 19-year-old
The shooting of Solomon Tekah in the Kiryat Haim neighborhood of Haifa took place on June 30 after the officer, who'd finished his shift, confronted Tekah and a number of his friends after he suspected them of stealing a cell phone. The policeman claims that during the confrontation he found himself in mortal danger which prompted him to fire off his gun. He was later arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.
The Police Internal Investigations Department said according to the findings of the investigation, the officer who confronted Tekah opened fire in the direction of the floor but the bullet ricocheted and hit the 19-year-old man, killing him.
The lawyer representing the Tekah family, Zion Amir, said they are disappointed with the decision and feel as if Solomon "was killed for the second time," but remain "restrained and noble."
“I am disappointed with the decision but determined to prove my innocence,” said the indicted officer in a statement. The officer has remained under house arrest since July while the investigation into the shooting continued.
As the decision was being announced, a group of at least a dozen demonstrators protested the charges, deeming them too lenient. They chanted “Solomon Tekah’s blood wasn’t spilt in vain,” and labeled Justice Minister Amir Ohana “a disgrace.”
"The decision was made after a thorough examination of the incident, including the fact that the officer opened fire not in accordance with police protocols he was well aware of, and did not take any other alternatives measures which were available to him,” said the Justice Ministry in a statement.
“We took into account the fact that the officer had stones hurled at him by the deceased, as well as other teenagers, and was hurt in the incident before he decided to reach for a gun,” said the statement. “But, after examining all the circumstances, we believe there is room for indictment.”
According to the indictment, the police officer arrived at a public park in Kiryat Haim with his wife and three young children on his day off. He noticed a 13-year-old boy giving money to two other teenagers, aged 14 and 16. He’d asked his wife to wait for him and approached the 13-year-old, who told him he gave the two other teens NIS 50.
The defendant then approached the two, told them he is a police officer and asked them to empty out their pockets, at which point Tekah joint the group and told the officer his police ID was fake.
“At this point, the two teens along with the deceased began cursing the officer and claimed the gun he had on him was fake,” said the indictment. “Fearing escalation, the officer decided to leave the area but the two teens along with the deceased began following him and threatening him.”
The officer made his way to the nearby parking lot where the three began pelting him with stones. The defendant was wounded in the incident and suffered a subchorionic hemorrhage. This prompted the officer to fire one bullet gun into the asphalt.
The death of the 19-year-old sparked widespread demonstrations across the country by Israelis of Ethiopian origin, where at least 111 officers and dozens of protesters were wounded, and 136 people were arrested.