Teka Family Demands Police Officer’s Imprisonment – Or More Protests

YERUSHALAYIM -
A firefighter extinguishes a car fire during a protest for the death of Ethiopian 18-year-old Solomon Teka, after he was shot dead by police, in Tel Aviv, Tuesday. (Reuters/Corinna Kern)

The family of Solomon Teka, the youth who was killed in a face-off with a police officer last weekend, is expecting that justice be done in the case – and that includes trying and jailing the officer, said Teka’s cousin, Ora Tasma. “It’s important for us to find out what is going on because police have not updated us,” she told reporters Monday. “It is very important that there be a fair and just trial. The family will not accept anything less than the imprisonment of the officer. If not we will protest in the streets. This was a murder, we will not keep quiet.”

Tasma made the comments outside the headquarters of the police internal affairs offices in Lod. The family finished sitting shivah for Solomon Monday morning, and their first appointment is with police to discuss the incident.

The family may expect an apology and a trial, but according to Maariv, those may not be so quick in coming. A report said that the officer’s version of events checks out, and is corroborated by testimony of eyewitnesses, including that of other youths who were involved in the incident that prompted the officer’s pulling his gun and shooting at the ground.

Teka was shot last Sunday night by an off-duty policeman under circumstances that are not clear. According to police, the officer was in a park with his family during the evening hours of Sunday, when he noticed a fight breaking out among some teenagers. The off-duty officer tried to intervene and break up the fight. He identified himself as a police officer, but the youths then began throwing rocks at him. Police said the officer felt his life was in danger, and he opened fire. It is not clear if he was aiming at Teka, but the youth was mortally wounded. He was rushed to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where he died of his wounds. Witnesses said that Teka was shot when he tried to run away from the officer.

Later theories said that the officer had shot into the ground and that the bullet had ricocheted back, hitting Teka and killing him. The officer has been suspended, and was arrested, questioned and released. He is said to be in hiding with his family. In an interview with Kan News, the officer said that had he not opened fire, “my family and I would be dead by now. They were already advancing on us with their knives drawn.”

Maariv reported that police brass had instructed internal affairs not to be so quick to apologize during Monday’s meeting. “Police must support the officer, who has a spotless record. He got involved when he was off-duty and followed all regulations involved in situations like this, even if it ended in tragic circumstances,” the newspaper quoted a high-level police official as saying. “We all regret Solomon’s death, but that doesn’t mean that the officer should be made to pay for doing his job and defending himself and his family when attacked.”

As a result, police are preparing for a new round of protests by members of the Ethiopian community. In the protests that took place last Tuesday, groups virtually shut down traffic throughout the center of the country. “They were very strategic,” said Shmuel, one driver who was stuck in a monumental traffic jam. “They blocked every major highway in the center of the country, so there were no alternate routes. My usual one hour drive took six and a half hours.” There were numerous reports of weddings that were delayed – with the chuppah taking place past midnight – or being canceled altogether, because guests, and sometimes the chassan and kallah, were stuck in the traffic jams.