Police Dep't defends results in Ethiopian shooting investigation

The autopsy was done in the institute for forensic medicine in Abu Kabir, according to sources familiar with the details.

Avichay Mandelblit attends Ayelet Shaked's goodbye party. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Avichay Mandelblit attends Ayelet Shaked's goodbye party.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Police Investigations Department sent a letter on Thursday to the parents of killed Ethiopian-Israeli Solomon Tekah defending the findings of the police ballistics department and the state's forensics institute (not connected to the police) that the bullet which a policeman fired which killed Tekah was a ricochet.
The issue is of crucial importance as if the policeman fired at the ground and not directly at Tekah, then he probably cannot be charged with more than involuntary manslaughter as recommended by PID, but which is much less than the original murder or manslaughter charges which had been discussed.
PID also rejected a request by the parents to view the case file before the prosecution make a final decision about the alleged charges, though it did say that it would consider the possibility of performing additional investigatory activities requested by the family.
Further, an autopsy carried out by PID found that Tekah had a very high blood alcohol level and residual drugs in his body at the time he was shot, The Jerusalem Post Hebrew sister paper, Maariv, reported.
The autopsy was done in the institute for forensic medicine in Abu Kabir, according to sources familiar with the details.
PID condemned the leaks from the investigation and expressed sympathy with the family's anger regarding those leaks.
On Tuesday, the police placed the policeman who shot and killed Tekah on forced leave.
The decision came following the decision by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday to fee the policeman and to allow him to enter any police precincts besides his regular one in the Haifa area.
That decision and the PID's general handling of the case have brought on wide and heavy criticism as well as periodic protests from the Ethiopian community who has held up the incident as a flagship case of discrimination.
Responding to the criticism, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and interim Police Chief Motti Cohen announced on Tuesday that they had formed a joint task force of their top deputies to fast track reforming how law enforcement handles cases relating to Ethiopians.
A joint statement said that the different arms of law enforcement recognized that their ongoing efforts to better address Ethiopian-specific issues were not moving ahead fast enough.
They said the new task force would move forward with earlier work performed by earlier teams and based on recommendations from a 2017 State Comptroller report, but that now there would be pressure for much more immediate results.
Mandelblit said that by next week, he would already set a strict timeline for concrete changes to be implemented.
Also on Monday, the Police Investigations Department finished its probe of the case and transferred its conclusions to the state prosecution.
Significantly, while some initially called for a murder charge and PID had been seeking a manslaughter charge, the final recommendation to the prosecution was for an involuntary manslaughter charge.
Between manslaughter (more severe) and negligent homicide (less severe) on the spectrum of charges, involuntary manslaughter is a newly created category basically for acting dangerously with clearly criminal intent in a way that leads to killing someone, though there was no intent to kill.
In contrast, murder requires specific intent to kill the person who died, manslaughter requires a general intent to kill someone and negligent homicide is a killing resulting from someone who acted irresponsibly, but not with dangerous criminal intent.
Involuntary manslaughter still carries a maximum prison sentence of 12 years though courts usually ignore the maximum sentence with such crimes, meaning an actual sentence could be as little as one to two years.
According to multiple associates of Tekah, the off-duty policemen injected himself into a low-key dispute and escalated it with shooting Tekah when he felt provoked by the group.
Supporters of the policeman have pointed to leaked evidence that Tekah or another person in the group allegedly threw rocks at the policeman, making him feel endangered.
They further allege that the policeman fired at the ground, but that the bullet ricocheted unintentionally into hitting and killing Tekah.
Even if these more favorable versions of the incident are true, the policeman could still be charged with involuntary manslaughter as his decision to pull out and fire a gun in close proximity to Tekah may have been extremely dangerous and unreasonable.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.