Kiryat Shmona chief gets boot over police conduct in lead-up to teen’s death

Yoel Lhanghal was stabbed at party during brawl with guests; police had arrived earlier to break up fight, then left, believing issue resolved

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Yoel Lhanghal (Courtesy)
Yoel Lhanghal (Courtesy)

Northern District Police chief Shuki Tahauko recommended the removal of the police chief of the northern city of Kiryat Shmona on Saturday over failures in the case of a teenager killed over two weeks ago.

The recommendation to remove Nir Sasson was made after a probe found police mishandled events leading up to the stabbing of Yoel Lhanghal, 18, during a brawl at a birthday party in the city. The officer on duty at the incident was also removed, while Sasson’s deputy received a reprimand in his permanent record.

The decision must be approved by Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and Public Security Minister Omer Barlev.

Police arrived at the party before Lhanghal’s death, in response to a call they received from guests that he was abusing his girlfriend. When officers arrived, they found that the call was an error, and instead were required to break up a fight between Lhanghal and other guests at the party.

After telling Lhanghal and the others to keep their distance from one another, police believed the issue was resolved and left. Soon after, the brawl resumed and Lhanghal was stabbed.

A day after the incident, police arrested a 15-year-old resident of the nearby town of Hatzor Haglilit whom they suspect was involved in the incident. In addition, they said they had detained another seven youths, aged between 13 and 15. Two days after the stabbing, Channel 12 news reported the arrest of three more suspects, including a soldier.

Following the events, a surprise probe was carried out, concluding that overall conduct at the Kiryat Shmona station was poor.

Lhanghal was a member of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community from a remote area of northeastern India.

The Bnei Menashe are believed to be descended from the biblical tribe of Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes exiled from the Land of Israel more than 2,700 years ago. In 2005, then-Sephardic chief rabbi Shlomo Amar endorsed the Bnei Menashe’s claim to Jewish ancestry, but required them to convert to Judaism.

Some 3,000 Bnei Menashe have immigrated to Israel in recent years, with another 7,000 remaining in India.

Ash Obel contributed to this report.

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