Nineteen-year-old Hagai Felician put on a mask, ran into the Bar Noar LGBT
center four years ago and began firing in all directions, killing two and
wounding 11, to avenge the sexual abuse of his 15-year-old relative by a grown
man he expected to be there, police announced on Monday.
police briefing gave rise to an embarrassing turn of events, as minutes after it
adjourned, the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court extended the gag order on the case
following a request by two of the suspects’ attorneys.
All of the details
police had given out thus became illegal for publication, and all Israeli news
websites had to pull articles they had run on the case. That gag order was
definitively lifted on Tuesday morning.
Police also cleared for
publication on Tuesday that a break in the investigation had come after a
witness – a member of the LGBT community – said he had helped to plan the
shooting at the Tel Aviv youth center. The witness is not the same community
member arrested last week for the sexual abuse of the minor, whose identity
still cannot be published.
The testimony of the witness and the wire-tap
recordings he made of the suspects are the backbone of the police case against
According to the official investigation, the young relative
told Felician, who is now 23, a couple of weeks before the August 1, 2009,
shooting that he had been sexually abused by a man who was working at the Bar
The two began to plot their revenge.
following 10 days or so, the pair, from Bnei Brak’s rough Pardes Katz
neighborhood, planned the attack, finding a firearm and plotting how to escape
afterward, police believe. They allegedly received help from Tarlan Hankishayev,
26, who was also arrested last Wednesday. Police do not believe Hankishayev was
present during the shootings.
They think but are not certain that only
Felician went into Bar Noar at the time.
When the two relatives arrived
around 10:30 p.m. on August 1, Felician ran into the basement of the youth
center and began firing with a .9-mm.
Jericho pistol, police say. Within
moments he fled, and the pair took off, leaving central Tel Aviv without a
trace. Police say they know how Felician fled and where the two hid, but will
not reveal the details at this time.
During a hearing at the Tel Aviv
Magistrate’s Court last Thursday, police said that Felician had gone AWOL from
the army for four months following the attack.
Orit Hayun, the attorney
representing the younger relative, said on Tuesday that her client had denied
having any connection, romantic or otherwise, with the member of the gay
community suspected of sexually assaulting him.
Hayun said her client had
never been involved with a man sexually.
She added that her client was
willing to take a lie detector test to prove his innocence and that he would
allow his name to be published.
“The entire police case is built so far
on the witness, it’s all they have. My client is confident that this one piece
of police evidence will fall through and he’ll beat the charges,” Hayun
In 2009, police launched a massive investigation into the attack
and focused on three possible motives: a nationalist crime, a hate crime
directed at the LGBT community, and a crime of passion or personal vendetta
against someone the shooter suspected would be at club.
Over the past
four years, police interviewed hundreds of witnesses, including activists and
members of the LGBT community. Among those interviewed was the LGBT center
activist arrested for the alleged sexual abuse.
Police are now trying to
determine whether he knew that the suspects were responsible and stayed silent
to avoid implicating himself in the assault of a minor.
described the three primary suspects as low-level criminals, in and out of
trouble with the law from a young age.
In 2011, Felician and his brother
Yitzhak ran afoul of local Pardes Katz gangster Yitzhak “Hishi” Hadif and
narrowly escaped an attempt on their lives. The brothers were wounded, one
lightly and one moderately, in that shooting, which took place in a park in the
Hadif – head of the Pardes Katz Gang, which ran the
neighborhood’s underworld scene in the ’80s and ’90s – was arrested after the
shooting but never charged in the crime, which remains unsolved.
Felician family is linked to another famous killing – the murder of underworld
figure and police informant Ayal Salhov, found shot dead in a field near the
Geha interchange in October 2006. At the time, Salhov was in a relationship with
Hagai’s sister, with whom he fathered a baby, and was supposed to be under
police protection. The murder was a major embarrassment for police and remains
Last December, officers matched a pistol to the Bar Noar
shooting and secured a gag order on the find. Most Israeli news outlets carried
a short, vague update that a “significant advancement had been made” in the
Not long after the pistol was found – by hikers in an open
area near Rosh Ha’ayin – the witness, who was in prison, told police he had been
part of the attack’s planning and offered to testify.
Police said on
Monday he had done so because he felt betrayed by the three suspects, who did
not help him in a time of need after the shootings, while he was in prison. They
said he also had a guilty conscience as a member of the LGBT
At the press briefing on Monday, Tel Aviv Central
Investigative Unit head Cmdr. Gadi Eshed spoke of the case as being “of
strategic importance” in that the failure to find the killers would leave a
feeling of insecurity among the public and the LGBT community in
Eshed described the killings as “the perfect crime” – no
forensic evidence, no photographic or video evidence and no witness testimony
that could help pinpoint the suspects.
He described how in March, the
witness had come forward and told police from behind bars that he had
information on the shooting.
Eshed said officers had met with the man and
signed a deal with him to become a witness for the state. Eshed added that all
the man asked was to be let out of jail two months early.
“If he had come
forward four years earlier, we would have given him a Mercedes and a million
dollars. I would have even driven him myself to the bank to pick up the money,”
Eshed joked at the briefing on Monday.
Once it was confirmed that the
witness was involved in the case, officers had him spend time with the suspects,
slowly coaxing them into talking about the case, something that involved great
risk on his part, Eshed said. Once the suspects began talking, the witness spent
four months building evidence from wiretaps, while police carried out close
During the surveillance, police reportedly recorded
Felician and his younger relative carrying out dozens of break-ins of
automobiles, as well as one arson attack and drug and weapons
These charges will be included in the indictments to be
presented against the two suspects and Hankishayev.
arrests, police held sit-down confrontations between the witness and the
suspects, during which the latter denied his allegations.
Eshed said the
witness had been involved in planning the shooting, had told the suspects how to
get in and out of Bar Noar, what hours it would be open and when the target –
the member of the LGBT community who allegedly hurt the younger suspect – would
be at the center.
“If he hadn’t come forward, this case could have easily
stretched on for another four years,” Eshed said, characterizing the
breakthrough as coming because of a simple personal dispute between
Ch.-Insp. Nissim Dawudi of the Tel Aviv Central Investigative
Unit said the suspects were criminals known to police for a long time, but that
at the time of the attack, officers did not think they were capable of something
He said that police still did not know whether the younger
suspect was abused once or more times by the LGBT community member or how they
met. Dawudi said the younger relative was the one who had told the older suspect
about the abuse, adding that the 15-year-old had not been known to spend time at
Bar Noar before the shooting.
Police have determined that Hankishayev was
not present at the attack or in the getaway car, saying that he most likely took
part only in planning the crime. While he is one of the three suspects in the
murder, Hankishayev is not seen as playing as central a role as the two
relatives. It is believed that police will try to convince him to testify
against the main two suspects, to strengthen the police case against
Opening the briefing was Tel Aviv Police head
Bentzi Sau, who told reporters that officers had just finished
updating the victims’ families about the developments in the case. Police
decided to ask for the gag order to be lifted following developments in the case
over the past couple of days, but would not say what they were, he
Sau described the state witness as a key part of the investigation,
adding that the man was under 24-hour police protection.
speculation that the arrests were meant to coincide with Gay Pride Week last
week, pointing out that the head of the central investigative unit had been
abroad on vacation during the arrests, as had other senior officers, and that
they had decided to make the arrests because they believed that waiting any
longer could jeopardize the case.
Toward the end of his comments, Sau
tried to temper the excitement among police in the room, saying, “It’s not over
till it’s over. We’ve been in many other cases before where it appeared there
was enough evidence for an indictment and then at the end the prosecutors backed
off. We’ll do whatever we can so that doesn’t happen, but it’s their choice in