Policeman who killed Ethiopian-Israeli teen charged with negligent homicide

Prosecutors accept cop’s claim he and family members were attacked by group, but say he was wrong to fire at ground rather than in the air, leading ricochet to hit Solomon Tekah

Worka and Wbjig Tekah hold a picture of their son Solomon Tekah, 19, who was killed by an off duty police officer, at their home in the Israeli city of Haifa, on July 3, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
Worka and Wbjig Tekah hold a picture of their son Solomon Tekah, 19, who was killed by an off duty police officer, at their home in the Israeli city of Haifa, on July 3, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

A police officer who killed an Ethiopian-Israeli teen in a June 2019 shooting was charged Tuesday with negligent homicide in the Haifa District Court, following a hearing.

The offense of negligent homicide carries a maximum punishment of three years in jail.

The Justice Ministry said the decision was made “after an in-depth review of the evidence, the circumstances of the case and the claims made during the hearing.”

The shooting occurred in the Haifa neighborhood of Kiryat Haim on June 30. According to the investigation, the off-duty officer who was with his children, intervened after his wife noticed that some teenagers had taken money from another boy. He then alerted the police hotline of the alleged theft, but the dispatched police car was delayed.

Ethiopian-Israeli Solomon Tekah, who was shot dead by an off-duty policeman in Kiryat Haim on June 30, 2019. (Courtesy)

In the interim, according to the investigation, the officer and his family members were pelted with stones, including by Solomon Tekah, 19, prompting him to draw his weapon and fire at the ground. The bullet ricocheted and killed Tekah.

The investigation’s findings largely concurred with the officer’s account of events, suggesting his life had been in danger, as he had claimed, and that he shot at the ground in the direction of the teenagers merely to scare them off, rather than injure them.

Prosecutors said the officer acted negligently by firing at the ground rather than in the air.

The killing of Tekah sparked nationwide protests, some of which turned violent. It immediately drew renewed accusations of police brutality and racism toward Israelis of Ethiopian descent. Days after the shooting, protesters across Israel blocked roads, burned tires, and denounced what they said was systemic discrimination against the community.

Ethiopian-Israelis and supporters protest in Tel Aviv on July 8, 2019, against police violence and discrimination following the death of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah, who was shot in Haifa by an off-duty police officer. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

When the intended charges were announced in November, Zion Amir, an attorney who represents the Tekah family, slammed the decision.

“He’s a murderer and they [the Tekah family] feel he [Solomon] was murdered all over again,” said Amir.

The family sought a manslaughter charge against the policeman, which is punishable by up to 20 years behind bars.

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