An American-Israeli man who had been living in Israel for a decade was beaten to death last week by two teenagers from north Jerusalem for refusing to give them a cigarette, police announced on Tuesday, following the lifting of a court-imposed media gag order on the investigation.
The teens were arrested on Thursday following an undercover investigation, and were formally charged with manslaughter on Tuesday at the Jerusalem District Court.
The assault victim, Lance Wolf, was sitting in Jerusalem's Kikar Hahatulot early on Wednesday morning when he was approached by two teenagers, aged 14 and 15, and asked to hand over a cigarette.
The teenagers had been intoxicated after drinking from a bottle of vodka which was purchased for them at a kisok by an adult earlier in the evening.
Wolf refused the request, and asked the youths to leave him alone. "The two backed away from him, picked up a wooden plank, came back, struck him [on the head], and fled," Jerusalem Police said.
Wolf lay bleeding on the ground for at least half an hour, and was seen by passers-by who failed to provide him with assistance, according to a number of reports. Emergency services were eventually called to the scene by a passer-by.
An ambulance evacuated Wolf to the Ein Kerem Medical Center in Jerusalem in critical condtion. Doctors were unable to stablize his condition, and he was declared brain dead. On Saturday, Wolf died of his injuries. He was buried on Sunday.
Jerusalem police district head Cmdr. Aharon Franco ordered a special investigation team to be assembled at the Lev Habria police station and tasked it with tracking down the assailants. Eye witness testimonies were gathered, and police obtained CCTV footage from the square which shows a youth smashing Wolf on the head with a plank of wood. In the video footage, Wolf is seen dropping to the ground as the youths flee.
"Intelligence and testimonies led us to the attackers in north Jerusalem," Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
At first, the suspects denied the suspicions against them, but later confessed, police said.
"He talked back rudely to me when I asked him for a cigarette," one of the suspects told police in the investigation room, when asked to explain why he attacked Wolf.
The teens were charged with manslaughter at the Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday.
Wolf arrived in Israel ten years ago after traveling in Europe for a few years. He had a family history of alcoholism, and struggled with the disease for decades. He was married twice in the US, and had two sons and a daughter. Wolf was estranged from his sons but maintained sporadic email contact with his daughter.
“When he was sober he was quite a nice man and very sensitive and caring,” said his close friend Natan Taig, the owner of Kaplan Hotel in Kikar Zion, where Wolf lived for a year. “He was not an angel, he could be unfair.”
After 50 years of never touching a computer, Wolf taught himself computer programming and HTML in Europe. Taig noted that Wolf often lived for free in hostels where he would update their website in exchange. He also gave private computer lessons, his friends remembered.
His friends among the Anglo community that spend time in the city center streets were shocked by the news of his death, saying that they usually felt safe on the city streets at night, but adding that they were not surprised that incident occurred in that area.
Wolf's friend said he was also attacked in the same area about a year
ago. He lost most of his teeth and his jaw was severely broken.
“There are big cliques, bad kids from all over the country that come and
hit the bars, and these kids just drink so much,” said one man who
asked not to be named. Other shared stories of attacks by groups youth
in the area.
Kikar Hahatulot (Cat Square), near Kikar Zion at the end of the street
filled with bars, has been a trouble spot for years. “The police don’t
care. Every Thursday and Saturday night there are dozens of kids
vomiting and pissing all over the area,” said Taig. “Only when someone
gets killed, maybe they’ll do something small for a little while.”
Taig and others point to a lack of police presence that allows the kids
to run while, inviting disaster. “After 8:00 pm, you won’t see any
police making rounds here,” said Nuri Yadegaran, who owns a gift store
in the center. “The police could come clean up this whole area, but they
don’t care… they need to be here between 2:00 am and 4:00 am. Tell Nir
Barkat to come here by himself at 3:00 am and see what he thinks.”
He said that the informal nighttime market in the plaza, with people
selling cheap jewelry and water pipes, just invites problems. “They
harass young girls, and the hookah brings harder drugs,” he said.
The US Embassy said it could not provide details about Wolf due to