Anonymous tip ends in police compensating slain motorcyclist's parents
Parents who had been told their son died in an accident later discovered he was killed by cops during chase.
An anonymous telephone call received seven years ago has resulted in an award of NIS 800,000 for damages and legal fees to the parents of Tomer Naim, who was killed in a motorcycle accident during a police chase in 2002.
At first, Naim's parents believed their son had died in an ordinary traffic accident, in which his motorcycle hit a policewoman, who was also killed. But on the third day of the shiva, or week-long mourning period, they received a phone call from a man who refused to identify himself. The caller said that Naim was killed during a police chase after being hit by a piece of wood thrown by the police.
In November 2002, Naim was riding his motorcycle in Rishon Letzion. Because his license plate was hidden from view, he aroused the suspicions of the police, who began to chase him. But instead of turning their sirens on and ordering him to stop, the police stopped traffic in order to create an impromptu roadblock made of cars.
Then, after Naim went around the cars and continued driving, police threw a wooden plank at him, causing the motorcycle to swerve. Naim flew off the bike, and the bike ran into the policewoman. Naim was killed instantly; the policewoman, Sara Schwartz, died of her injuries later in the hospital. But when police brought the news of Tomer's death to his parents, Rina and Sasson Naim, they mentioned neither the plank nor the chase.
"On the third day of the shiva, someone called me crying," Sasson Naim told Haaretz on Wednesday. "He said, 'Listen, this is going to be the first and last time you hear from me. Your son did not run over the policewoman. A policeman threw a piece of plywood at him, flinging him off the bike, which continued and ran her over.'" The caller added that one of the policemen then threw the wood away somewhere north of the accident site.
Sasson Naim went looking for the evidence. "I searched for a week until I found the plywood. It was old, with fresh breaks," he said. He began to investigate the accident and discovered that his son's helmet and motorcycle had been discarded in the police parking lot without being marked or examined as evidence. His son's jacket and money belt had been buried with him at the funeral. The piece of wood was not mentioned in a reconstruction enacted by the police, which was recorded on a defective tape, nor was it collected from the scene.
"They did not tell us they threw a piece of wood at him," Naim said. "The police shunted me aside and said there was no need for an autopsy; they showed me pictures of one so I would see what happens to people - all their insides are taken out and placed on a stainless steel table. I said, 'Why should my son be subjected to this kind of abuse?' They tried to convince me that there was no need. I viewed it as an accident and said, 'Why cut him up?'"
But the anonymous caller, whose identity the Naims never learned, caused them to investigate the incident.
Over time, they received more testimony from people who were present at the scene - about the plank, and about other objects thrown at their son during the chase. The Naims fought for years to have the policemen responsible brought to trial, but the case was closed with no charges being filed.
The Naims, via attorney Ofer Greenfield, then filed a NIS 10 million civil suit against the policemen and the police force. The case ended on Wednesday with a verdict handed down by Judge Zipora Brun (her last, as she is retiring from the bench). Brun ruled that the police were negligent in their handling of the incident and must compensate the parents.
She also ruled that while a causal connection had not been proven between the throwing of the plank and Tomer's death, the lack of proof stemmed from the damage to the evidence caused by the police themselves. Therefore, she said, the burden of proving what actually happened was on the police, who failed to meet it.
"The chase constituted unreasonable means under the circumstances," the judge wrote. "There was no basis for suspecting life-threatening danger, the sole justification for stopping traffic in order to capture an escaping vehicle."
Brun rejected the police's claim that they suspected Tomer of being a terrorist: "I did not receive the impression either from the circumstances or from the defendants' testimony that there was a serious, reasonable and well-grounded suspicion of hostile terrorist activity."
About the police officer who threw the plank of wood, Yizhar Kiner, the judge wrote, "Kiner could and should have foreseen that throwing a wooden plank at [Naim] would injure him or cause him to lose control and was likely to kill him. Kiner thus breached his obligation to behave with caution. If not for the chase, the stopping of traffic and the wood, Tomer would not have died."
Kiner, she continued, should have reported throwing the plank to the investigators who came to the scene and pointed it out so that it could be marked as evidence.
Brun acknowledged that there was a connection between Tomer Naim's illegal actions and the ensuing events. However, she said, this was not sufficient to bar his parents from suing for compensation.
"I'm not happy, but I'm satisfied," Sasson Naim said after hearing the verdict. "This is about clearing [Tomer's] name. Their story that he killed a policewoman when he was thrown from the motorbike, that the motorbike killed the policewoman, was a web of lies ... I hope the verdict will send a signal to all ordinary citizens who encounter such Kafkaesque situations. They should know that sometimes, it is possible to do something."
Added Rina Naim: "I managed to save my son, to clear his name. Do you know what that means to a mother?"