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Police to pay NIS 1.8 million to family of Ethiopian-Israeli teen killed by cop

The family of an Ethiopian-Israeli teenager killed in a fatal police shooting in 2019 is expected to receive NIS 1.8 million ($580,000) as part of a settlement of a civil lawsuit against the Israel Police, according to a report Friday.

The family of Solomon Tekah, 19, had filed a NIS 2.5 million ($800 million) suit against the police after an officer had caused his death in a shooting that sparked widespread protests against police brutality, some of which turned violent. According to Ynet on Friday, the police and the family reached an agreement that is set to be finalized by the Finance Ministry in the coming weeks.

The officer, whose name has been barred from publication by court order since the incident, was accused of recklessly causing Tekah’s death by firing a bullet at the ground — from where it bounced and hit the teen — rather than firing warning shots in the air.

The shooting occurred in the Haifa neighborhood of Kiryat Haim. 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 to the alleged theft, but the dispatched police car was delayed.

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

The fatal incident 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. The protests went on for several weeks.

Members of the Ethiopian community of Israel face policemen during clashes in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya on July 2, 2019, during a protest against the killing of Solomon Tekah, a young man of Ethiopian origin, who was killed by an off-duty police officer (Photo by Jack Guez / AFP)

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department said that while the officer was in danger at the time, it was not life-threatening and under no circumstances should he have fired at the ground.

He was charged with negligent homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Proceedings against the officer are ongoing. In February 2021, he was set to be reinstated by the Israel Police but was then moved to the fire department after a public outcry.

Family members and supporters attend a ceremony in memory of 19-year-old Ethiopian-Israeli, Solomon Tekah who was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer on in Kiryat Haim, July 10, 2019. (Flash90)

The initial announcement of the officer’s return had caused anger among Israel’s Ethiopian community, which perceived the death of Tekah as a reflection of racism and discrimination within the police ranks.

Tekah’s death followed other alleged incidents of racism by police. Six months earlier, Yehuda Biadga, 24, a mentally ill Ethiopian-Israeli, was shot and killed by police who say he charged an officer while brandishing a knife.

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