Internal probe said to exonerate officer who killed mentally ill knifeman

Police Internal Investigations Department finds cop acted in self-defense when he fired multiple shots at Munir Anabtawi after being called to scene by distressed parents

Munir Anabtawi with his sister. (Mossawa Center)
Munir Anabtawi with his sister. (Mossawa Center)

A Justice Ministry probe has reportedly exonerated a police officer who shot dead a mentally ill Arab man after being dispatched to the scene in Haifa where the victim was brandishing a knife.

The ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department determined that the officer, whose name has been barred from publication, acted in self-defense after finding himself in a life-threatening situation, Channel 12 reported.

As a result, the officer had no other option but to fire his weapon at Munir Anabtawi.

Anabtawi’s brother told the network last month that his mother attempted to call an ambulance to help him when he had what appeared to be a psychotic episode, but accidentally reached the police, whose arrival led to tragic results.

Amir Anabtawi said that the police was a “criminal organization” that “assassinated” his brother.

“They’re cowards. They are not professional enough to deal with the problem,” he said.

“Why five bullets? Fine, give him one. He’s down. But one, and another, and another and another. They neutralized him,” he added sarcastically.

The officer was released after being questioned by the Police Internal Investigations Department, but has not returned to work yet.

Israel’s Psychiatric Association sent a statement shortly after the shooting to Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, saying that he should “immediately establish training arrangements and intervention teams to treat cases involving [populations with] psychiatric [disorders].”

Israeli Police Chief Kobi Shabtai on January 8, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“It would have been possible to prevent unnecessary loss of life that stems only from lack of knowledge and/or appropriate training,” the statement added.

In security camera footage, Anabtawi could be seen brandishing what looks like a knife and chasing the police officer. The two scuffle as they run down the street, before the officer pulls out his gun and appears to shoot Anabtawi.

Last year, in a similar incident, police shot and killed a 30-year-old mentally ill man named Shirel Habura. The police said Habura attempted to stab a police officer.

Police also shot dead Iyad Halak, an autistic Arab man, last year in the Old City of Jerusalem, admitting later that they had mistaken him for a terrorist.

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