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Off-duty police officer shoots dead Ethiopian-Israeli teenager

The officer was not in danger prior to the shooting, witnesses said. [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 July, 2019

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An off-duty Israeli police officer has been arrested after he shot dead an Ethiopian-Israeli teenager, the Justice Ministry's Police Internal Investigations Department said on Monday.
An off-duty Israeli police officer has been arrested after he shot dead an Ethiopian-Israeli teenager, the Justice Ministry's Police Internal Investigations Department said on Monday.

The policeman was arrested on suspicion of unlawful killing and later released to house arrest, following an order from Haifa Magistrate's Court.

Solomon Tekah, 19, was gunned down on Sunday during a brawl in the northern city of Kiryat Haim.

"Overnight, a police officer was arrested on suspicion of unlawful killing following an event during which a 19-year-old was shot dead in Kiryat Haim," the Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID) said in a statement, according to The Times of Israel.

The officer claimed that he was in danger when he opened fire, but an eyewitness has reportedly told PIID the accused had not been in a perilous situation before shooting the victim dead.

A second witness, who works as a youth counsellor near the scene of the shooting, told Haaretz on Monday that he did not see that the officer was in danger prior to the shooting.

Read more: Suspecting Ethiopians and Arabs is 'natural': Israel's police chief

"The policeman was not in any danger. He actually took up a shooting stance and fired a single bullet when Solomon was at a distance of at least 30 meters from him," said the counsellor, who was identified only by his first name, Eli.

"Unequivocally, the policeman did not shoot while under stress," Eli added.

The incident immediately brought to the fore renewed accusations of Israeli police brutality and racism toward the Ethiopian community.

The officer claimed he was trying to break up an altercation but was set upon by three youths who threw stones at him, putting his life at risk.

Israel's Ethiopian community now numbers around 140,000 people, including more than 50,000 born in the Jewish state.

Most of them are descendants of communities cut off from the Jewish world for centuries, and were belatedly recognised as Jews by Israeli religious authorities.

Ethiopian Jews have long been known to have suffered extensive discrimination inside Israel. Racist policies such as forcing Ethiopian women to be injected with contraceptives, destroying blood donated by Ethiopians, and brutal police practices used against the community, have been made public over recent years.

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