Police looks to witnesses for lead into Tel Aviv gay center shooter
At scene of Saturday attack, witness reenacts event; police also gathering testimonies from bystanders.
Detectives from the Tel Aviv police district have gathered several important eyewitness accounts from various sources in connection with Saturday evening's shooting attack on a gay community center. Nir Katz, 26, and Liz Trobishi, 16, were killed and 15 more injured when a gunman opened fire in a Tel Aviv gay-lesbian youth center on Nachmani St.
Some of the accounts could lead to significant developments in the investigation.
On Tuesday afternoon, three detectives visited the scene of the assault accompanied by a youth who was present at the time of the shooting. He entered the community center with the detectives and reenacted how he managed to escape when the gunman opened fire.
"I ran outside," the witness told the detectives, "and hid with a girl who was wounded in the leg behind garbage cans that were on the corner of the street. I caught the killer in my sight coming out and coming toward us. We hid behind the garbage can. Then I saw him leave."
The police also have the testimony of bystanders who were near the center and managed to catch sight of the gunman for a few seconds as he left the scene. According to one eyewitness, the killer walked away hurriedly with his weapon still in his hand, and then disappeared up one of the adjoining streets.
On Tuesday, a man in his twenties, who was in the back yard of the center when the gunman came through the door and opened fire, returned to the scene.
"It was a matter of a couple of seconds," he recalled. "I stood outside with people sitting near me. At first we didn't understand that it was happening at the center, but it was too close. I heard eight shots and someone ran out yelling 'run away, run away!' I ran to the stairwell and got out quickly. I ran for a few blocks without looking back," he said, adding that at the time that he passed the entrance of the center, the gunman was apparently still inside. The witness said that he is still in a state of constant fear and is having difficulty recovering from what he experienced.
"There is fear and tension," he said, "and all of a sudden it is hard for me to be in enclosed spaces. I think [the gunman] was someone who knew very well where he had entered and aimed his fire very well at the [gay] community. It's important for me that this issue not drop off the [public] agenda, because there is so much hate in Israeli society, and it seems like this could easily happen again."
On Tuesday, the officer heading the police investigation, inspector Charlie Hardan, arrived at the scene of the murder accompanied by other detectives and asked the residents of the apartment building which houses the center not to touch the walls and railings. A short time later investigators from the police identification unit conducted a sweep of the scene using advanced equipment to look for fingerprints and other evidence that might help the investigation.
Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai, who had been abroad for the past several days, also visited the scene on Tuesday.