Military vet perplexed by decision to revoke gun license

Bobby Sargel, who made aliya from the UK in 1987, says he was arrested after coming under an unprovoked rock attack.

By
June 21, 2011 04:04
gun chilling on the grass

gun in grass 58. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Ten months after an arrest that failed to result in charges, Bobby Sargel, 63, from Moshav Ramat Zvi in the Jezreel Valley, remains baffled by the conduct of police.

Sargel, who made aliya from the UK in 1987, is no stranger to law enforcement. He did his military duty in the Prisons Service, and then faithfully showed up for reserve duty, serving in the West Bank, the Center and the North.

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Despite long being free of the need to serve in reserves, Sargel, who is married and has two adult children, became a volunteer with the Border Police, where he has served in the Lower Galilee Response Team since 1995, and where he has faced life-threatening situations on more than one occasion.

“I consider it my duty as an Israeli citizen to do the best that I can for the country,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

A farmer, Sargel also works as a manager at a salt production plant based in a quarry near Beit She’an, together with his son.

Last August, Sargel said, he intervened in a fairly commonplace dispute between tractor drivers from a nearby Arab village who work at the quarry.

“I work with Arabs and Jews alike, it doesn’t make the slightest difference to me,” Sargel said. “The argument erupted about who would be first in line.”



After instructing the drivers to stop the dispute, Sargel returned to his control cabin with his son, when a stone suddenly smashed into his window.

“We rushed out to see what was happening. One of the drivers was throwing rocks at us. I shouted at him to stop. My son was then hit in the back by a rock thrown from another direction,” he said.

He chased the driver, caught up with him, and grabbed his arms in order to stop the rock throwing, Sargel added. Sargel’s son came to separate his father from the driver.

“Suddenly, another driver came and jumped on my son’s back, bringing him to the ground. The first driver ran away. Then both drivers disappeared,” he said.

Sargel again pursued the men.

“Then, the younger of the drivers appeared on a ramp above me with a rock the size of an American football over my head.”

At this stage, Sargel felt that his life was in danger.

“I’ve got 19 years of Border Police volunteer service behind me. I’ve been hospitalized twice and have been the target of an attempt to run me down. I stood up to two armed illegal hunters. Never, ever in all of this time did I feel a need to draw a weapon. This time, I looked into his eyes, and I saw that he was out of his cage.

“I told him to drop the rock, but he wouldn’t. I drew my pistol, which had no magazine in it, since I had locked it in my drawer earlier.

He dropped the rock,” Sargel said.

At that stage, “my son ran toward the other driver. The driver grabbed hold of a large paving stone and threatened him with it. I rapped his knuckles with my pistol and he dropped the paving stone,” he said.

“We came under a rain of rocks. Fortunately, none of them hit.”

Sargel ordered the drivers to leave the quarry. “I didn’t report this to my boss because I didn’t want to disrupt the production line. I didn’t report this to police; this was a big mistake,” he added.

But the drivers did call police, and officers from the Beit She’an police station arrived on the scene.

An officer confiscated Sargel’s pistol.

“When I told him rocks were thrown at me, he looked around the quarry and said, ‘I can’t see any rocks,’” he said.

Sargel and his son were ordered to report to the station later that day, where they were questioned and then arrested.

“To my knowledge, the rockthrowers were not questioned until February or March. This is a farcical situation. It’s not justice,” he said.

“My son and I were put in handcuffs and leg irons. We were escorted to what I can only describe as a medieval cesspit, the holding cell in Beit She’an station. I was so ashamed of the conditions, I told the officers to give me a broom and swept up the rubbish into the toilet pit,” Sargel said. “I can’t describe the conditions. I’m ashamed to think about it.”

The two Sargels were held overnight and then brought to the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court in handcuffs, where the judge ordered their immediate release to house arrest after bail was posted.

No charges were brought against Sargel, but this month, he received a notice from the Public Security Ministry saying that his firearm license had been revoked.

A spokeswoman from the ministry told the Post that Sargel’s license was taken away “due to a recommendation made by the Israel Police to revoke it following an incident that resulted in a criminal case being opened against him.”

The spokeswoman added that Sargel could apply for a new license at the Firearms Licensing Department in Afula. “His request will be examined in accordance with the regulations,” she said.

The Israel Police said in a statement that Sargel was “suspected of threatening the attacker with his gun. His firearm was therefore confiscated and a criminal case was opened. The case has, in the meantime, been closed by state prosecutors due to a lack of public interest, but the criminal registration remains, and this therefore is the basis for revoking his license. Should he choose to do so, Mr. Sargel can appeal the decision.”

In January, the commander of the Border Police base in Gilboa where Sargel is based, Gonen Firstenberg, sent a letter to the Firearms Licensing Department, saying that Sargel required a long-barreled firearm and a personal handgun in his capacity as a Border Police volunteer.

In 2009, Sargel was praised by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority after confronting two illegal hunters. The authority sent Sargel’s commanders a letter that praised his “determination and professionalism.”

“I’m bitter,” Sargel said. “I don’t expect to be let off because I’m a volunteer. However, I’m bitter that no attempt was made to question the guys who attacked us. We don’t need extra protection. I just want the same protection as everyone else.”

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