Panel exonerates policemen who killed Palestinian driver

PID: Border Police "officer acted out of sense of danger, to ensure final neutralization of who he believed was the terrorist" in June incident.

BORDER POLICE Lod 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Border Policemen who shot dead a Palestinian driver after his vehicle struck officers in east Jerusalem in June acted lawfully, the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department announced on Sunday, following a six-month-long investigation.
The findings of the probe were made available to relatives of the driver, Ziad Gilani, and their attorney. On June 11, 2010, large numbers of Border Police troops who were patrolling east Jerusalem following Friday afternoon prayers were called to the scene of a riot in the Wadi Joz area.
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After dispersing the rioters, Border Policemen departed the area, walking on the side of the road in a column, when a pick-up truck driven by Gilani swerved towards them and struck the group.
Two men were lightly wounded in the incident. Two other policemen stormed the vehicle, believing they were responding to a terrorist attack.
The PID investigation found that the policemen “first fired in the air, and then fired at the vehicle, which continued driving away from the scene.”
Gilani ditched his vehicle and fled on foot after his truck became obstructed. He was pursued by the pair of policemen, and struck by bullets they fired towards him from close range.
Gilani was evacuated by the Red Crescent to the Al- Makdes Hospital in east Jerusalem, where he was pronounced dead by doctors shortly after arrival.
The PID launched an investigation on the same day, questioning dozens of eyewitnesses, carrying out forensic tests, and seizing film taken from the scene after the incident.
Gilani’s body underwent a postmortem examination two weeks after his burial, after consent was given by his relatives.
On Sunday, the PID released its findings, describing them as “unequivocal.”
“[When] the vehicle struck the officer, the Border Policemen believed they were dealing with a terrorist incident, and responded in accordance with the rules of engagement in order to stop who they believed was the terrorist,” the PID said in a statement.
“The investigation found that after Gilani was hit by gunfire, and despite lying on the ground, additional shots were fired at him from close range by one of the combatants,” the PID said, adding that the Border Policeman eventually admitted to carrying out the subsequent shooting, despite an earlier refusal to admit to it.
However, the PID added, “the investigation was unable to refute the possibility that in this case too, the officer acted out of a sense of danger, to ensure the final neutralization of who he believed was the terrorist.
“In light of this complex state of affairs, the investigation found difficulties in disconnecting the various parts of the incident, and in attributing criminal responsibility to the mistaken judgement – albeit severe – that originated in the midst of storming the suspect,” the PID added.
“After consulting with the deputy state attorney for criminal affairs, it has been decided to close the case against the Border Policeman due to lack of sufficient evidence.”
The PID stressed in its decision that the circumstances that led to Ziad Gilani’s vehicle swerving and striking the police officers, and his attempt to escape, have not been fully determined. It added that investigators have “not ruled out the possibility that he lost control of the vehicle, leading to a deadly and rapid sequence of events, which ended with the tragic death of a person.”