After autopsy leaks, father of Solomon Tekah says cops killing his son again

Worka Tekah blasts ‘slanderous’ reports after TV channel says coroner found alcohol, drugs in Ethiopian-Israeli teen’s system

Worka Tekah speaks at a memorial ceremony for his son Solomon Tekah, who was shot dead by an off-duty police officer, in Haifa on July 10, 2019. (Flash90)
Worka Tekah speaks at a memorial ceremony for his son Solomon Tekah, who was shot dead by an off-duty police officer, in Haifa on July 10, 2019. (Flash90)

The father of an Ethiopian-Israeli teenager killed last month by a policeman denounced on Thursday what he termed efforts to smear his son, following a report that claimed autopsy results showed alcohol and marijuana in Solomon Tekah’s system.

Tekah, 19, was shot dead by an off-duty officer in Haifa on June 30. The cop, who has not publicly been named, has maintained he was trying to break up a street fight and was set upon by three youths who hurled stones at him, endangering his life.

According to a Channel 12 news report on the autopsy, Tekah drank alcohol prior to the shooting and the bullet ricocheted off the ground before killing him, corroborating the officer’s account.

The autopsy also showed that he had smoked cannabis sometime prior to the shooting, Channel 12 reported.

Speaking at a press conference at Bar-Ilan University, Worka Tekah assailed “the false reports slandering Solomon’s name” and criticized authorities over their conduct in the aftermath of the shooting.

Ethiopian-Israeli Solomon Tekah who was shot dead by an off-duty policeman in Kiryat Haim on June 30, 2019. (Courtesy)

“We had hope that law enforcement would investigate and arrive at the truth but instead we have come to slander and harm to his reputation,” he said through a translator. “How can one desecrate the name of a man buried in the earth and is incapable of defending himself and clearing his name?

“They are killing my son for a second time,” Tekah added.

He called for the probe into the officer to be conducted “without any bias” and said the family lacked faith in law enforcement.

“What would you say if your son left the house and never came back. Solomon was shot and killed solely because of his skin color,” Worka Tekah said.

Also Thursday, the Police Internal Investigations Department, which is probing the officer, told the Tekah family it would not share the findings of the investigation until a decision is reached on an indictment.

The PIID said sharing the case at this point could interfere with the probe and whether or not to file charges.

On Wednesday, Dr. Chen Kugel, who heads the National Center of Forensic Medicine, told Channel 12 that the autopsy showed that it was “99.9 percent certain” that the bullet struck the ground before hitting Tekah, judging from the shape of the wound and the remnants of the bullet that they found.

The shot had not been fired from close range, Kugel said.

He confirmed that Tekah’s DNA had been found on a stone at the scene but said he could not draw any conclusions from the finding.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit informed Kugel Thursday that he would look into whether the forensic center head broke the law by publicly unveiling the autopsy’s findings, the Ynet news site reported.

The report said Mandelblit contacted him after receiving a letter from Blue and White MK Pnina Tamano-Shata, who said the release of the autopsy findings may have constituted obstruction of justice.

Ethiopian Israelis and supporters protest following the death of 19-year-old Ethiopian, Solomon Tekah who was shot and killed few days ago in Kiryat Haim by an off-duty police officer, in Jerusalem on July 2, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The killing of Tekah sparked three days of nationwide protests, which at times turned violent and saw damage to property. The incident immediately sparked renewed accusations of police brutality and racism toward the Ethiopian community. Days after the shooting, protesters across Israel blocked roads, burned tires and denounced what they said is systemic discrimination against Israelis of Ethiopian descent.

The Haifa Magistrate’s Court freed the officer from house arrest on Monday but he still faces court-ordered restrictions in light of expected charges of reckless homicide. The suspect is barred from entering the Zevulun police station in Haifa for 45 days and is prevented from visiting the scene of the killing.

Reckless homicide carries a sentence of up to 12 years in jail. This new categorization, which came into existence five days ago in a justice system reform, is applicable when a suspect is thought to have taken an unreasonable risk but without the intention of causing death — e.g., playing with a loaded weapon or driving dangerously.

According to Hebrew-language media reports Monday, the PIID said the investigation into the shooting has been completed and the case transferred to the State Attorney’s Office.

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