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Israeli Officer Need Not Have Shot Autistic Palestinian, Commander Says

JERUSALEM — An Israeli police officer who gunned down a Palestinian man who had autism within the Previous Metropolis of Jerusalem in Could defied an order to carry his fireplace and killed the person regardless that he posed no hazard to anybody, a commander has informed investigators, in keeping with folks briefed on the case.

“He didn’t assault or do something,” the commander testified, in keeping with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “He was positively not resisting.”

The Could 30 taking pictures of Iyad al-Hallaq, 30, who was on his approach to a college for the disabled, got here 5 days after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, and rapidly turned a rallying cry in opposition to police brutality at political protests which have roiled Israel for a lot of the summer season.

Mr. al-Hallaq was about 150 yards from the doorway to his faculty at round 6 a.m. on a Saturday when cops known as to him as he entered the Previous Metropolis by the Lions Gate. Somewhat than cease, he ran alongside the Through Dolorosa. When the preliminary officers reported a possible “terrorist,” a number of others gave chase.

Certainly one of them, a 21-year-old commander who was simply days away from leaving the pressure, informed investigators he fired at Mr. al-Hallaq’s decrease physique whereas racing after him, however missed.

Searching for cowl, Mr. al-Hallaq become the gate of a fenced-in space utilized by sanitation staff the place, in keeping with witnesses, he cowered in opposition to a wall as two Border Cops cornered him: the 21-year-old and his 19-year-old accomplice, a rookie a couple of weeks out of fundamental coaching. Their names haven’t been made public.

Each have been performing their obligatory navy service within the Border Police, a paramilitary arm of the Israeli police that operates on the West Bank, in parts of Jerusalem and in other volatile settings and is frequently called upon in situations with the potential to escalate into violence.

Witnesses have said that a teacher of Mr. al-Hallaq’s noticed the episode unfolding and tried to intervene, shouting on the officers that Mr. al-Hallaq was disabled and posed no risk.

However the commander’s testimony, as reported by Haaretz, means that, disabled or not, Mr. al-Hallaq mustn’t have been shot.

Haaretz mentioned it had obtained parts of each officers’ testimony to investigators on the Justice Ministry’s police-misconduct unit, which staged a re-enactment on the scene late Wednesday evening.

In Haaretz’s account, whose accuracy was confirmed by folks briefed on the case, the older officer, having chased Mr. al-Hallaq down, immediately grasped that “there was a discrepancy between the stories I acquired initially — that this was a terrorist incident, that it was one thing meant to hurt harmless folks — and the scenario within the trash room.”

“It’s a closed place with no solution to escape from it,” the commander mentioned, including of Mr. al-Hallaq: “He didn’t assault or do something. He was positively not resisting. He didn’t endanger me in that scenario.” The commander mentioned that he and his accomplice ought to have “checked out the suspect from a distance, questioned him.”

However the 19-year-old didn’t heed his order, the commander testified: “Then my accomplice shot, and I yelled once more, ‘Cease taking pictures, cease taking pictures.’ Apparently the suspect made some motion that induced my accomplice to shoot once more.”

The 19-year-old, in keeping with Haaretz, informed investigators he primarily based his determination to fireside on the preliminary identification of Mr. al-Hallaq as a “terrorist” and a motion that he noticed Mr. al-Hallaq make.

“I didn’t hear ‘Cease,’” the youthful officer mentioned. “I acted the best way I used to be taught. So far as I used to be involved, this was a terrorist whom the pressure commander shot at earlier than we entered the room.”

His lawyer, Efrat Nahmani Bar, emphasised her consumer’s inexperience, and mentioned he believed Mr. al-Hallaq — who was carrying darkish surgical gloves, due to the coronavirus — was about to drag out a weapon. “He’s a younger soldier who thought he was doing the proper factor,” she mentioned.

Mr. al-Hallaq was shot twice within the torso, an post-mortem discovered.

In an interview, Mickey Levy, a lawmaker and former Jerusalem police commander, known as the taking pictures “a extreme operational error” that violated fundamental guidelines of engagement. “They didn’t see any weapon in his hand, in order that they didn’t must shoot,” he mentioned.

The misconduct unit’s investigation is nearing an finish, officers say. Surveillance video of the Could 30 incident was inconclusive, as a result of two cameras educated on the spot the place Mr. al-Hallaq was shot have been not hooked up to recorders on the time, in keeping with witnesses and investigators.

Nonetheless, the testimony of the police commander appeared to verify the grim summation of the sufferer’s father, Khairi al-Hallaq, in a latest interview: “He hid within the nook, and so they shot him.”

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