Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral Sunday of a man shot dead by a police officer in an incident that has revived accusations of heavy-handed policing toward Israel’s Ethiopian community.
Yehuda Biadga, 24, was killed Friday, in his hometown of Bat Yam, after police said he charged at an officer with a knife. Police have denied Biadga’s heritage was connected to the policeman’s decision to open fire, saying he felt a credible fear for his life.
At the funeral, Biadga was eulogized by Bat Yam Mayor Yossi Bachar, who was interrupted by angry shouts, as he mentioned the police officer.
“He didn’t kill him, he murdered him,” a number of the funeral-goers yelled.
“Let’s respect the occasion,” Bachar repeated in response amid continued murmuring by the crowd. “We must get to the truth of the matter.”
Biadga’s brother, David, broke down in tears as spoke next to the coffin.
“Bye, Yehuda, thanks for everything. I love you,” he said.
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Police have opened an investigation into the shooting of Biadga, who relatives said had mental health issues.
Biadga’s family members have said they called police after he threatened his parents with a knife, and police on Sunday released a transcript of a call to an emergency dispatcher.
“At 45 Balfour Street in Bat Yam there is an incident. A 22-year-old is going wild with a knife, he wants to kill his parents,” the caller was quoted saying by Hebrew media.
“He took a kitchen knife. He wants to kill his mother,” the caller added.
However, in the wake of the shooting, relatives accused police of using excessive force.
“When a terrorist comes to carry out an attack they say ‘Don’t shoot’ and if you do shoot, then at the legs. But when this is a citizen they shoot at his upper body — that isn’t normal,” Biadga’s brother, David, said.
“My brother was a totally normal person. A God-fearing young man,” David said, adding his brother was a good student and had served in the military.
But Yehuda Biadga’s brother-in-law Hagos Ubo said he had mental health problems and had recently stopped taking his medication. Ubo added that he was the one to call police, following an altercation between Biadga and his parents, but harshly criticized the officer for opening fire.
“They shot a person in the head in the crosswalk. Why not shoot in the air? They immediately shoot at the head in order to kill,” Ubo told Hebrew media.
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Ubo said he volunteers with police, but could no longer do so in the wake of the incident.
“Every weekend, I volunteer, and tomorrow I’m throwing out my uniform. I’m ashamed. I can’t see it anymore. How long will they keep treating our ethnicity like this,” he said.
The officer’s lawyer, Sagi Blumenfeld, said he acted lawfully and only opened fire as a last resort.