After off-duty cop shoots Ethiopian Israel, police call for ‘restraint’

On Sunday night, Solomon Tekah was critically wounded and later died of his wounds.

By BRADLEY LEVIN
July 2, 2019 00:09
4 minute read.
After off-duty cop shoots Ethiopian Israel, police call for ‘restraint’

The scene of the shooting near Haifa, June 30, 2019. (photo credit: MAGEN DAVID ADOM)

The police are calling for “restraint, responsibility and to avoid increasing tensions” after 18-year-old Ethiopian-Israeli Solomon Tekah was shot and killed on Sunday night in Kiryat Haim by an off-duty police officer. The officer was arrested on Monday morning and questioned at the Haifa office of the Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP) in the State Prosecutor’s Office.

“I call upon the leadership of the Ethiopian community to do everything in their power to restrain the extra tensions and feelings,in order to continue to focus on the important process of integrating between the community and the police,” acting police commissioner Moti Cohen said on Monday after a meeting with top officers in the coastal district.

On Sunday night, Tekah was critically wounded after being shot by an off-duty police officer in a Kiryat Haim park. He later died of his wounds.

Police units arrived at the scene, according to police, and discovered that the incident occurred when the off-duty officer, who was in the playground area with his wife and three children, saw a fight nearby. He approached the group that was involved in the fight, and after making clear to the group that he was a policeman, they started throwing stones at him.

According to the officer, he felt he was in a life-threatening situation and fired for reasons that police said are “still being looked into.”

KAN reported on Monday that the national leadership of the police has expressed “skepticism” about the officer’s claim.

Tekah was taken to nearby Rambam Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. The policeman was injured in the upper part of his body and also taken to the hospital for medical treatment.

“The Israel Police is sympathetic to the Tekah family for the tragic loss of life,” said Cohen in a statement. “This is an event whose results are difficult, and therefore a thorough investigation is required to take place.”

Similarly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “our cohesion in moments… of trials and tribulations is ultimately the key to our power.” He expressed regret over the loss of Tekah and said that he spoke with the acting commissioner, who “promised that we would make a great effort to get to the truth as soon as possible.”

On Monday, dozens of Ethiopian-Israelis protested in front of the police station in Haifa in response to what they called a racist incident by police against their community. The city of Haifa appeared to have shut down; cars stood still at a standstill. Demonstrations of solidarity broke out in other suburbs of Haifa and shut down traffic at the entrances to Beersheba and Ashkelon.

“We’re looking for justice,” Verka Nazara Tekah, Solomon Tekah’s father said in an interview. “I lost a child. A precious child. God, do justice to the people who took a child before his time when he had not done anything, not been able to do anything. He only came to play with his friends.”

Tekah was described by his father as “a child with the happiness of life, who knew how to hug, to help and support.” He said his son was caring and had a huge heart.

During the protest, one man stood up and shouted, “We cannot give up... We have to fight with all of our power to protect our culture. We cannot give up, or tomorrow or in two days they’ll shoot us.”

Roy Eyoy, 23, cried that Ethiopian blood must be “good for more than just wars, army and every other office this country represents.” Eyoy is a combat soldier in the Givati Brigade.

Tekah is the second Ethiopian to be killed by police in less than six months. In January, police opened fire and killed 24-year-old Yehuda Biadga of Bat Yam, who reportedly rushed at the officers holding a knife.

His family said the young man was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and accused police of using excessive force.

Following the incident, members of the Ethiopian community said Biadga was treated differently because of his color. The community protested in Tel Aviv.

In interviews soon after that event, Biadga’s brother-in-law, Hagos Ubo, expressed sentiments like those being expressed by protesters on Monday. He asked, “How long will they keep treating our ethnicity like this?”

“Like ducks in the shooting range, the blood of Ethiopian young people has become a waste of time, and the lives of our children are not safe,” wrote MK Pnina Tamano-Shata on Twitter Sunday night. “The reaction of the community will be severe.”

MK Ofer Cassif accused Israeli police of feeling “very comfortable shooting at certain people – mainly Arabs and Ethiopians.

“Police violence against Ethiopian immigrants is not a glitch, but a policy, and in cases of killing Palestinians, there is no shock at all,” Cassif continued.

In 2015, several thousand Ethiopian Israelis violently demonstrated against what they said was police brutality against their community. Since then, Cohen said the police had been building a more positive relationship with the Ethiopian community, “in a variety of steps and processes.”

“We must preserve all of the significant achievements made,” said Cohen. “We are in constant contact with community leaders in these difficult moments and are making every effort to continue on the joint path.”


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