The Colt pistol used by convicted murderer Samuel Sheinbein to shoot and wound several prison guards at Rimonim Prison on Sunday has been traced to a man from central Israel, Sharon subdistrict police said Thursday.
The man was questioned and told investigators that his licensed pistol was stolen from him a year ago and that he does not know Sheinbein. The man is neither a policeman nor a member of the security services, police said. He is also not considered a suspect or believed to have helped Sheinbein get the gun into his prison cell.
Hours after Sheinbein opened fire on prison guards, barricaded himself in a bathroom at Rimonim’s Cell Block 5, and was shot to death by guards, police and the Israel Prisons Service announced that both organizations would investigate how Sheinbein got the pistol. IPS officers do not carry firearms while in prisons.
After the shoot-out, investigators found a prison guard uniform, keys to the cell block, and a spare magazine in Sheinbein’s cell. They also do not know how he obtained the objects or what he was planning to do with them, the IPS said Thursday.
Sheinbein, a 34-year-old American- Israeli, was serving a 24-year sentence for the September 1997 murder of teenager Alfredo Enrique Tello, Jr., in Maryland. He fled to Israel following the murder, using an Israeli passport attained through his father, a dual US-Israel citizen. His accomplice in the murder, Aaron Needle, was captured and hanged himself while in custody.
Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a US extradition request in keeping with the law at the time, and an Israeli court sentenced him to 24 years for the murder.
The law has since been changed to allow for extradition in such cases.
There were reports on Thursday that the pistol’s owner reported it stolen after he had advertised it online. On his last furlough on February 6, Sheinbein was arrested after he tried and failed to steal a firearm from a man in Ramle who had also advertised the gun online.
When Sheinbein met him in Ramle, the convict snatched the gun and tried to flee on foot, but the gun owner stopped him. Although Sheinbein was indicted after the incident, he was not moved from his cell, placed in solitary confinement, or placed under tighter supervision.
The furlough was the latest in a total of 96 that Sheinbein took during his time in prison in Israel. The Prisons Service said Thursday it was not an unusual amount, considering that if prisoners meet all the requirements they can be eligible for a furlough as often as once a month.
The furloughs included ones of 24, 48, and 96 hours. Prisoners are eligible for furloughs after serving a quarter of their sentence. The IPS had canceled Sheinbein’s furloughs several times due to violations, including an incident when he smuggled a contraband MP3 player back into his cell. Each time, his furlough privileges were reinstated by a court.
In the last incident before the shootout, Sheinbein on Thursday locked himself in the synagogue on his cell block and refused to leave for over an hour. As punishment, the IPS say he was confined to his cell all weekend. The incident was also the reason that Sheinbein was taken out of his cell on Sunday to be moved to a different cell block, at which point he pulled a pistol and began shooting at guards.
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