An off-duty police officer shot and killed a young Ethiopian-Israeli, Salomon Teka, 18, in Kiryat Haim north of Haifa on Sunday evening, June 30. The young man’s death was confirmed at Rambam Hospital in Haifa after he was taken there in critical condition by paramedics.
A large number of police from the Nesher area and a coastal district arrived at the scene of the shooting and began an investigation into the incident. They determined that an off-duty officer had been in a nearby playground with his wife and his three children when he saw a fight taking place nearby. The police also established that the off-duty officer’s pistol had been fired. However, they refrained from giving details about the incident for more than two hours, except for issuing a laconic notice, inasmuch as a policeman was involved in the shooting. The latter was arrested on Monday morning, July 1, and is to be interrogated by the Police Investigation Unit (PID).
Several dozen Ethiopian-Israelis gathered outside the Kiryat Haim police station in protest after midnight Sunday and the incident immediately sparked renewed accusations against police of racism towards the Ethiopian community.
Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan expressed “deep shock and sorrow” over the event in a series of tweets. He emphasized that the killing of a young man at the hands of a police officer was especially difficult to accept and that a full investigation will be carried out.
Hadash MK Ofer Cassif slammed Erdan’s comments: “Israeli policemen feel very comfortable shooting at certain people, mainly Arabs and Ethiopians,” he wrote on Twitter. “Erdan’s feigned shock is horrifying – police violence against Ethiopian immigrants is not a glitch, but a policy; and in cases involving the killing Palestinians, there’s no shock at all.”
In January of this year, police shot and killed Yehuda Biadga, a 24-year-old Ethiopian-Israeli who lived in Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv. Law enforcement officials claimed at the time that the victim had charged an police officer with a knife. The victim’s death led to mass protests in Tel Aviv and throughout the country against police brutality, particularly toward Ethiopian-Israelis.
More than 135,000 Jews of Ethiopian descent live in Israel, but many have and continue to struggled against widespread racism and discrimination in the society. Community leaders and Hadash MKs have repeatedly said there is a pattern of racism and abuse by police towards Ethiopian-Israelis, despite repeated promises to root out the problem.