Cop who shot disarmed terrorist recommended for medal

Police set to fete volunteer who fired on incapacitated Palestinian who killed US tourist Taylor Force in Jaffa stabbing spree

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Security forces at the scene of a stabbing attack in which one person was killed and nine others were injured at the Jaffa Port on March 8, 2016. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
Security forces at the scene of a stabbing attack in which one person was killed and nine others were injured at the Jaffa Port on March 8, 2016. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Police have recommended awarding a medal to a volunteer policeman who helped stop a Palestinian terrorist by shooting the already-wounded stabber as he lay on the ground.

The volunteer cop and a regular patrol officer have both been nominated to receive honors for their actions in stopping Bashar Massalha — who killed US tourist Taylor Force, 29, and wounded nine others in a March 8 stabbing spree in Jaffa and adjacent Tel Aviv — the Hebrew-language Walla news site reported Sunday. The patrolman, who initially stopped Massalha in his tracks by shooting him as he ran along Tel Aviv’s beachside promenade, is up for a Medal of Distinguished Service. The volunteer policeman, who fired the controversial shot after Massalha was already lying on the ground, apparently incapacitated, has been recommended for a Certificate of Commendation. Massalha was killed by the gunfire.

“They showed readiness to confront [the terrorist] during the incident, thus preventing injury to additional civilians,” wrote Yarkon Precinct commander Yehuda Dahan in his recommendation.

Dahan’s superior, Tel Aviv District chief Moshe Edri, has already approved the proposals, which are to be reviewed by a delegation headed by the chief of police manpower, Deputy Commissioner Gila Gaziel, the report said.

According to police, Massalha, 22, who hailed from a West Bank village near Qalqilya, stabbed three people on the Jaffa boardwalk, a popular site for shopping and leisure, before fleeing inland toward the city’s Kikar Hasha’on, where he stabbed three more people. He then went on to stab at least four more people, several hundred meters to the north, near the Dolphinarium club in Tel Aviv, before he was shot dead by police.

In one video clip posted online from the scene of the attack, Massalha is seen lying motionless on the ground after being shot by the police patrolman, while the volunteer policeman stands nearby.

A voice is heard from the crowd gathered nearby goading the cops, saying, “Give it to him in the head! Don’t be afraid.”

A bullet is fired, and other members of the crowd yell at the cop to stop firing.

“Enough! He’s lying neutralized on the ground. What are you doing shooting for no reason?” yells the second policeman.

Two days after the incident, the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department said it was looking into the shooting, although it had not opened a formal investigation.

Law enforcement officials examined the footage to ascertain whether there was evidence of a crime in the shooting of Massalha after he was already on the ground.

According to Sunday’s report, the volunteer cop maintains he believed Massalha still posed a threat, and shot him in the arm.

The attack in Jaffa was the third of the day across the country, and came as US Vice President Joe Biden was nearby, visiting former Israeli president Shimon Peres at the Peres Center.

Force, the American tourist who was killed, was from Lubbock, Texas, a US Army veteran who had done tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. A 2009 graduate of the West Point Military Academy, he served as a field artillery officer from 2009 to 2014 at Fort Hood.

Force’s wife was severely injured in the attack, according to Zaki Heller, spokesperson for the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

Twenty-nine Israelis and four foreign nationals have been killed in a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence since October 2015. About 180 Palestinians have also been killed, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.

News of the medals comes during the ongoing trial for IDF soldier Sgt. Elor Azaria, who has been charged with manslaughter for shooting and killing a Palestinian attacker in Hebron in March after the attacker had been subdued — meaning he was shot, supine, and barely able to move as he lay on the ground.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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