Investigators find police didn’t tamper with probe of civilian hero’s death

Examination was opened after detectives falsely asserted there was no shrapnel in body of Yuval Castleman, shot dead by off-duty soldier as he responded to a terror attack

Yuval Castleman (Courtesy)
Yuval Castleman (Courtesy)

The Department of Internal Police Investigations (DIPI) announced Wednesday it was ending its probe into officers who investigated the November killing of Yuval Castleman by an off-duty soldier, and who had been suspected of potentially tampering with the procedure.

“After examining the evidence and the sequence of events, it was found that the conduct of the investigation team did not give rise to suspicion that any of the police officials sought to interfere with the investigation procedures,” DIPI said in a statement.

On November 30, Castleman, 37, exited his car at the main entrance to Jerusalem to fire at terrorists carrying out an attack, before being gunned down himself by Staff Sgt. (res.) Aviad Frija, who was also responding to the terror attack. Frija says he thought Castleman was one of the terrorists.

Footage from the scene showed that Frija, who was subsequently questioned on suspicion of reckless homicide, shot and killed Castleman after the latter laid down his weapon, raised his hands in the air and shouted “Don’t shoot” and “I’m Jewish.” Castleman’s family called his death an “execution.”

State Attorney Amit Aisman in December ordered a probe into the police’s investigation of the incident after an autopsy found an M-16 bullet and pieces of shrapnel in Castleman’s exhumed body. The findings were at odds with investigators’ position that there were no bullets left in Castleman’s body, and that such a procedure was unnecessary.

Yuval Castleman was fatally shot after preventing the continuation of a deadly terror attack in Jerusalem on November 30, 2023. (X screenshot; used in accordance withclause 27a of the copyright law)

“The evidence shows that the Israel Police’s erroneous conclusion was based on the evidence that was placed before it at the time, which led it to believe honestly and in good faith that no bullets were found in the deceased’s body,” DIPI said. Therefore, it said, there could be “no doubt that there was no underlying intention to interfere with the investigation procedures.”

Castleman’s family was incredulous of the findings.

“We know the police tells us things that are just not true,” argued Shaked Castleman, the victim’s brother, to Kan Radio station.

The killing touched off public controversy over the military’s rules of engagement and some soldiers’ apparent disregard for them. Israel Defense Forces protocols do not allow soldiers to shoot someone who raises their hands in the air, and officials said the conduct of Frija, the soldier who shot Castleman, was not what was expected of him based on the norms and values of the military.

DIPI said that it took testimony from those involved in the investigation, including medical personnel and police officials, and Castleman’s family members, whom representatives of DIPI met with to update on its decision.

The internal watchdog emphasized that the probe’s end had no bearing on the military police’s investigation into Castleman’s death and Frija’s conduct, which is ongoing.

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