Police reconstruct killing of Arab-Israeli Iyad al-Halak

PID again says close to completing probe

Iyad al-Halak, who was killed by Border Police a few weeks ago. (photo credit: COURTESY OF THE FAMILY)
Iyad al-Halak, who was killed by Border Police a few weeks ago.
(photo credit: COURTESY OF THE FAMILY)
Nearly three months after police mistakenly shot and killed an unarmed east Jerusalem special needs resident, the officers being probed reconstructed the scene late Wednesday night.
The area around the crime scene near the Lion’s Gate at the Old City was closed off to traffic and pedestrians during the reconstruction.
A spokeswoman for the Police Investigations Department (PID) said that investigators were very close to submitting their recommendation to the state prosecution – though a similar announcement was made in mid-July.
The May 30 police shooting of Palestinian Iyad al-Halak led to massive criticism of the police, and even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted the shooting was a mistake.
All parties acknowledge that the shooting was a mistake. The question is whether PID will decide to indict the police officer who killed Halak for anything from murder to manslaughter to negligent homicide, or even close the case, based on how reasonable or unreasonable it was for the shooter to believe that the unarmed Halak was a threat.
Halak was shot dead after fleeing into a garbage disposal room, bolstering the idea that the shooting was far more than a mere negligent mistake.
Leaked information has indicated that Halak may have acted suspicious and that some kind of law enforcement action may have been justified under the circumstances, given that the officers did not know he had special needs.
Further leaks have provided some potential information which could reduce any charges against the police officer shooter.
According to the leaks, a first set of police officers thought Halak was acting suspiciously and called out that he was a “terrorist.”
When Halak fled the Lion’s Gate area, multiple groups of police followed him with the understanding that he had been flagged as a terrorist.
One officer said that as they ran multiple blocks to catch Halak, he even fired at his lower body to try to prevent him from getting away.
These shots apparently missed.
However, Haaretz reported on Thursday that when this police officer arrived at the garbage room and saw the other police officer (who eventually killed Halak) standing over Halak, he ordered the other officer twice not to fire.
According to the report, the shooter ignored both orders, one coming before the first shot, and one coming between the first and the second shot.
In contrast, the police official who killed Halak has said he did not hear any order to hold his fire, had heard Halak was declared a terrorist and had seen his commander fire (even if he missed) on Halak as they were chasing him down the street.
According to the PID, though they immediately collected several video cameras positioned near where the incident took place, none of them recorded the shooting itself in the garbage room.
At the same time, PID said that they had interviewed multiple witnesses who saw the shooting and all of the many police officers involved in various aspects of the incident.
Some eyewitnesses have even claimed that they yelled to the police officer who killed Halak that he was a special needs case, while leaks from the officer’s side have said he did not hear any such warning.
Supporters of the shooter have also noted that the Lion’s Gate in the Old City, where the incident occurred, has seen many attacks by east Jerusalem or West Bank Palestinian residents against police officers.
It is also possible that the original police officer who declared Halak a terrorist breached protocol, as he could have issued a warning before jumping to the most dangerous conclusion merely based on suspicions that Halak was concealing a gun.