The prime suspect in a deadly shooting spree at a gay youth club in Tel Aviv that left two dead and 11 injured was indicted for murder and attempted murder on Monday in what the prosecution is indicating was a hate crime.
“[Hagai] Felician, motivated by feelings of anger and revenge, killed and tried to kill innocent young people… solely because they happened to be at the Bar Noar club,” read the indictment, filed by the Tel Aviv district prosecution. “This despicable and criminal act caused the death of two people as well as grave damage to the minds and bodies of everyone who was in the club on the night of the murder.”
After a state informant turned him in, Felician confessed his actions to an undercover officer planted in his jail cell.
According to the indictment, Felician also told the undercover officer he had carried out the shooting “because of the biblical edict to attack homosexuals.”
“You have everything on me, you can give yourself a pat on the back,” Felician reportedly told investigators after he realized he had spilled the beans.
Police also have recordings of Felician saying, “We did it smoothly, no one found out, it was quiet for four years.”
Felician told the informant that he had carried out the attack because his 15-year-old relative was sexually assaulted by a well-known LGBT activist. That activist has since been identified as Shaul Ganon, the founder of the Bar Noar club.
The relative, whose identity is protected by gag order, is also suspected of involvement in the murders, while a third suspect, Tarlan Hankishayev, was released following their arrests in June. Although he wasn’t charged with murder, the relative could still face charges of conspiracy to commit a crime.
Hankishayev’s attorney said the court’s decision to release his client was proof he had nothing to do with the shooting.
The investigation into the attack was the most expensive in police history, with authorities questioning over 1,000 people.
Police were finally able to make headway in their investigation four months ago, when the man who would become the state’s witness turned himself in.
The witness told police that he was aware that the suspects intended to harm Ganon for sexual offenses he had allegedly committed against a minor related to the suspect. The state’s witness maintains that he did not know that they intended to kill Ganon.
According to the indictment, on August 1, 2009, Felician, his face hidden by a mask, entered the Bar Noar on Tel Aviv’s Nahmani street with the intention of shooting Ganon and anyone else inside out of “hatred for their sexual preferences.”
After discovering that his target wasn’t on the premises, the accused opened fire on those present in the main common room of the center, the indictment said. He then allegedly continued to search through adjoining rooms, shooting anyone he found as his victims desperately sought to escape. Only after he had used up all 15 rounds in his pistol did he finally flee the scene, the prosecution said.
The witness said he had provided the suspects with the address of the youth club, where he thought their intended victim would be, as well as information for reaching and escaping from the scene. The witness was also said to have provided Felician with the black mask that he wore during the attack.
The indictment also included cellphone text messages, apparently sent by Felician to the state witness, urging him to keep quiet about the attack to let the matter rest.
Ganon, the gay activist, was at first arrested by police in connection with sexual misconduct against the then-underage relative of the main suspect, but charges were dropped after he agreed to testify.
Yoel Goldman and Aaron Kalman contributed to this report.