The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department is expected to indict an off-duty police officer who shot dead an Ethiopian-Israeli teenager earlier this year on a softened murder charge, according to a Sunday report.
According to the report in the Haaretz daily, the officer will likely be indicted for negligent homicide, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.
PIID investigators determined the policeman had no reason to draw his gun, the report said, even though 19-year-old Solomon Tekah was throwing stones at him.
Legal sources told the paper investigators had initially drafted an opinion that the officer should face a heavier murder charge, which could carry up to 12 years in prison.
However, the more severe charge is not likely to be pursued because investigators do not believe they will be able to dispute the officer’s account that he felt his life was in danger before he fired his weapon, Haaretz reported.
The officer, who has not publicly been named, has maintained he was trying to break up a street fight in the Haifa neighborhood of Kiryat Haim last June and was set upon by three youths who hurled stones at him, endangering his life. The officer says he fired a shot at the ground and the bullet ricocheted up, fatally hitting Tekah.
The suspect was last investigated under caution on August 30.
In July, Channel 12 TV news reported that an autopsy found the bullet ricocheted off the ground before killing him, corroborating the officer’s account.
The killing of Tekah sparked nationwide protests, which at times turned violent and saw damage to property. The incident immediately sparked renewed accusations of police brutality and racism toward Israelis of Ethiopian descent. Days after the shooting, protesters across Israel blocked roads, burned tires and denounced what they said is systemic discrimination against the community.