Police put officer who killed Ethiopian on forced leave

The decision came following the decision by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday to free the policeman and allow him to enter any police precinct apart from his regular one in the Haifa area.

By
July 17, 2019 01:58
2 minute read.
Police put officer who killed Ethiopian on forced leave

A protester holding a sign saying 'It could happen to me' as police officers walk by . (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)

Israel Police placed the officer who shot and killed 19-yearold Ethiopian-Israeli Solomon Tekah on forced leave on Tuesday.

The decision came following the decision by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday to free the policeman and allow him to enter any police precinct apart from his regular one in the Haifa area.

That decision and the general handling of the case by the Police Investigations Department (PID) have brought heavy criticism and periodic protests from the 140,000-strong Ethiopian-Israeli community which has held up the shooting as a flagship case of discrimination.

Responding to the criticism, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and interim Police Chief Moti 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 Ethiopian-Israelis.

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 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 the 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 recklessly 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 or two years.

According to multiple associates of Tekah, the off-duty policemen inserted himself into a low-key dispute which escalated into the shooting of Tekah when the officer felt threatened.

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 and unintentionally killed 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.


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