Initial findings from a probe into the fatal shooting by police of a Palestinian man during a car chase has found that the suspect was outside the vehicle when the shots were fired — and not still driving the car, as initially claimed by police.
The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department announced the development Sunday, hours after it began investigating the incident, which had taken place earlier in the day outside Jerusalem.
The Israel Police initially had said officers opened fire while chasing the suspected car thief because they believed he was driving in a manner that endangered them and other people on the road.
The 25-year-old man suffered critical injuries while attempting to escape in the direction of Bethlehem via the Tunnels Road, south of Jerusalem. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The PIID assessment found that the suspect had already exited the vehicle when a policeman shot him, apparently leading officers to revise their version of events and admit that the suspect was no longer in the car at the time of the shooting.
PIID said investigators reviewed the scene of the shooting and questioned the officer, who, while admitting that the suspect was on foot, told them he acted according to police procedures.
The officer said the suspect broke through a police checkpoint, after which a patrol car collided with his vehicle, Haaretz reported. The officer claimed that as the suspect left the car and tried to flee on foot, he fired a warning shot in the air and then tried to shoot the man in the lower body.
The officer’s attorney Itzik Cohen said in a statement that “this is a policeman who was in the middle of a chase after a suspect who tried to harm officers and who acted according to police procedures. We have no doubt that the matters will be clarified in the continued investigation.”
The officer’s gun was taken from him and he was released with restrictions as the investigation continues, Haaretz reported.
There is a gag order against publishing the officer’s name.
The fatal shooting came during an overnight pursuit of three cars that police said had been stolen from the capital’s Givat Massuah neighborhood by a group of Palestinians.
Three more people, some from the West Bank and some from East Jerusalem, were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the car thefts.
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended by five days the remand of the three other suspects.
Two of the suspects appeared in court with injuries to their faces, Hebrew media reported. Their attorney claimed police had beaten them, though an Israel Police representative told the court that the suspects received the injuries when they violently resisted arrest.
The police representative said that video of the shooting incident had not yet been passed on to the court, Haaretz reported.