The former Border Police officer who killed four people in a shooting rampage in Beersheba Monday was stripped of his firearm by police following a violent incident several years ago, but it was later returned after a judge upheld his appeal.
Itamar Alon shot up a Bank Hapoalim branch in Beersheba Monday afternoon after a series of financial setbacks, eventually taking his own life following a standoff with police.
According to a Ynet report, Beersheba police revoked the 40-year-old man’s firearm following a 2011 incident in which a neighbor reported Alon to authorities after he repeatedly damaged the neighbor’s air conditioner. When police responded to the call, officers found that Alon had barricaded himself inside his apartment and locked his parents in the safe room.
Alon appealed the police’s decision to strip him of his firearm. During proceedings at the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court in August 2011, a police representative said that Alon was a dangerous individual and that “there’s no grounds for returning his weapon, at least until all the circumstances are clarified, including investigation of the appellant’s threat to his parents.”
The former security guard and Border Police officer argued in response that he needed the weapon for self-defense against people who may seek revenge against him because of his service.
“During my security service I performed things in the name of the public, the state of Israel, the most grave acts vis á vis terrorists,” Alon said. “If they discover I don’t carry a weapon, there will be terminal consequences.”
Judge Sara Haviv wrote in her decision that although the police were legally justified in dispossessing Alon of his firearm following his release as a suspect in a violent incident, “the concerns in this case and the suspicion of violence [against his parents] were never investigated.”
“[Alon] was investigated in connection with other transgressions against his neighbor, not against his parents,” she wrote, and ordered the police to reevaluate the revocation of Alon’s firearm.
After a brief investigation, the police returned Alon’s pistol and ammunition.
Once a decorated officer, Alon was discharged a decade ago and saw his life spiral downwards to the point where he was unemployed and unable to sort out a debt with the bank.
A previous incident, described as a turning point in his life, was when he attended a 2003 Purim celebration at a school in Beersheba a few years ago wearing a “fake explosive belt,” causing the principal to strongly rebuke him. The two had a heated argument, which allegedly turned to threats, and the incident was considered a “watershed” moment that drove him over the edge, an unnamed source told Ynet.
Miri Cohen, a bank employee who was taken hostage for about an hour, said in a Channel 2 interview that Alon alluded to the fact that his actions were retribution for the bank’s decision not to approve him for a NIS 6,000 loan ($1,600).
“I’m going to show you — and do to you what you did to me. I’ll show you,” Cohen said Alon told her, likely referring to the bank’s decision to close his credit line.
After entering the bank at around 1 p.m. Monday, Alon killed Avner Cohen, 40, the branch manager, who is survived by his wife and three kids, ages 6, 13 and 18.
Cohen’s aunt, Zahava Tapiro, was the last family member to see Cohen before he died. Tapiro told Ynet News that she had come to the branch in the morning, and that she and Cohen sat together for a while, sharing jokes and laughter. Tapiro invited him to her son’s wedding, at which point Cohen asked his aunt if she needed money through the period. “I was ashamed to say ‘yes,’ ” Tapiro explained, “so he sent me to another branch, essentially saving me from being killed.”
Tapiro said she was about to return to the bank when her husband called and told her what had happened.
Anat Ben-Haim, 34, a client of the bank, was also killed; she leaves behind an 11-year-old daughter and 4-year-old twins.
Meir Zeitoun, 40, a deputy manager at the bank, also a father of three, was another one of the four victims.
The fourth victim, Idan Savri, was 22 years old.
Alon had received a medal from former Beersheba mayor Jacob Turner for his bravery during a terror attack 11 years ago. Two terrorists reached an army base in the south and opened fire on soldiers, killing several. Alon, then an officer in the army, rushed to the scene and returned fire on the terrorists, helping to kill one of them.
Yet he was released from the army about a year later, after his superiors received complaints about him and his communication style. Alon, who was described by coworkers as “aloof and rigid,” was reportedly let go due to poor relations with his colleagues, according to media reports.
After being released from the Border Police about 10 years ago, Alon began working as a security officer for the Beersheba municipality.
He was later unemployed and moved in with his parents, who were described by neighbors as loving, normal, and kind. A neighbor told Channel 2 News that Alon would often sit on the porch and sing.