The DNA of Solomon Tekah, the Ethiopian-Israeli teenager shot dead by an off-duty officer in an incident that sparked nationwide protests, was found on a rock recovered from the scene, Channel 12 news reported Wednesday.
The genetic material may indicate that Tekah, 19, threw or at least held the rock prior to being shot, and could strengthen the police officer’s case, Channel 12 said, without citing a source for the report.
The officer claimed he was trying to break up a street fight but was set upon by three youths who hurled stones at him, endangering his life. He said he did not target Tekah but rather fired at the ground.
The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department has said a probe into Tekah’s death concluded the officer indeed fired at the ground and the bullet apparently ricocheted and struck Tekah.
The report came as Tekah’s father bewailed what he called efforts to clear the officer of responsibility for the killing.
“We have lost trust in the (Justice Ministry’s) Police Internal Investigations Department,” said Worka Tekah at a memorial service for his son later Wednesday.
“The writing is on the wall, the officer will be cleared. the results are clear and painful, he won’t be punished and he won’t be tried,” he said.
On Monday, PIID chief Keren Bar Menachem met with the attorneys for Tekah’s family and relatives at the ministry in Jerusalem, where she updated them on the progress in the investigation. The family’s attorneys asked to see the forensic reports and the results of Tekah’s autopsy and were told the request would be taken under consideration and an answer given soon, Hebrew media reported.
The police officer, who has not been named in media, shot Tekah dead in Haifa on June 30, setting off protests across the country that have seen violence and destruction of property.
The PIID findings seem to corroborate the officer’s claim that he did not aim at the youth but rather fired at the ground, with the bullet bouncing upward and striking Tekah. Officials are said to be leaning toward charging the man with a disciplinary offense only, rather than manslaughter.
The shooting incident immediately sparked renewed accusations of police brutality and racism toward the Ethiopian community. Last Monday, protesters across Israel blocked roads, burned tires and denounced what they said is systemic discrimination against Israelis of Ethiopian descent. The demonstrations escalated after Tekah’s funeral Tuesday, when some protesters set vehicles on fire, overturned a police car and clashed with officers and others who tried to break through their makeshift roadblocks.
Protests faded on Wednesday after Tekah’s family asked that demonstrations be paused until after the seven-day Jewish mourning period, which ended Sunday. The family also asked that future protests be kept nonviolent.