Driver remanded over killing of volunteer cop at sobriety checkpoint

Suspect in killing of Amichai Carmely, 46, to be held for five days, along with four passengers; lawyer denies client was even in the car

Amichai Carmely. (Courtesy)
Amichai Carmely. (Courtesy)

A Rishon Lezion court on Saturday evening extended for five days the detention of a suspect held after a volunteer police officer was mowed down and killed at a checkpoint set up to catch drunk drivers.

Police said they are examining whether the suspected driver could face a murder charge. According to the Ynet news site, tests showed the driver had a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit.

Amichai Carmely, 46, was killed in the early hours of Saturday morning when a vehicle plowed into the checkpoint in the central city of Rishon Lezion. He is survived by his wife and two children aged 19 and 16.

The four passengers in the car at the time of the incident were ordered held until Tuesday.

The alleged driver of the vehicle is suspected of murder, drunk driving, disobeying a police officer and ignoring a red light. While the passengers are not being investigated for murder, it was not immediately unclear on what grounds they were being held.

The court heard the suspects, all residents of the southern Bedouin town of Rahat, had spent the evening at an entertainment venue in Rishon Lezion.

Police told the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court that at around 4 a.m. “a number of people were standing outside their vehicles — dancing in the road and endangering road users.”

The scene where a volunteer police officer was killed when a driver drove through a sobriety checkpoint, June 11, 2022 (Magen David Adom)

According to Channel 12 news, police told the court that officers wanted to arrest those involved, but the suspects fled.

At that point, police said, a chase began, with the vehicle hitting a taxi before the group fled in the direction of the Beit Dagan interchange, driving along Derech Hamaccabim, where the police volunteers had set up the checkpoint to apprehend drunk drivers.

Police told the court that there were a number of stationary vehicles at the checkpoint and the driver disobeyed an order to stop, instead detouring around the side of the roadblock.

The car spun and hit a number of vehicles, police said, killing Carmely and injuring two other police volunteers.

An eyewitness told Channel 12 news the vehicle was zigzagging as it approached, and the driver appeared to lose control as he tried to go through the checkpoint without stopping, hitting a number of officers and vehicles.

“The vehicle drove wildly and threw two vehicles that were parked at the checkpoint into the air,” the witness said.

The defense lawyer for the suspected driver told Channel 12 news that his client was not driving the vehicle involved in the crash.

The scene where a volunteer police officer was killed when a driver drove through a sobriety checkpoint, June 11, 2022. (Israel Police)

“My client is not connected to the incident. He said in his interrogation over and over again ‘I did not drive and I was not in the vehicle that was in the chase and caused the accident,'” Levy said.

“When the incident occurred, he got out of the vehicle he was driving because he wanted to check on his friends who were in the accident. [Police] saw him and immediately grabbed him and arrested him,” Levy said. “Even if my client danced on the road earlier, that does not mean he did it.”

Four of the suspects, including the suspected driver, were arrested at the scene. A fifth fled but was later arrested at a hospital, where he went for treatment for injuries he claimed he had sustained falling down stairs.

Ynet reported that police were working to determine if the passengers in the vehicle encouraged the driver to flee, or had tried to get him to stop.

In a statement, the Israel Police said Carmely was a “good and elite” volunteer who worked at the sobriety checkpoint on the shift overnight between Friday and Saturday in the hope that it would save the lives of young people and allow them to return home to their parents.

The head of the Israel Police traffic unit, Yehuda Ben-Atar, eulogized Carmely as “professional, brave and salt of the earth.”

Police said Carmely had volunteered for over 15 years, and that his grandfather was a police officer who was also killed in the line of duty — Moshe Carmely was killed by a grenade in Gaza on the eve of Yom Kippur 1973.

Carmely’s funeral is due to take place on Sunday in Rishon Lezion.

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