A motorist from East Jerusalem who ran over and wounded several Border Police officers Friday was shot twice in the face from close range while still lying on the ground, eyewitnesses said. Neighborhood witnesses said the fatal shots were fired once the officers no longer had reason to fear that their lives were in danger, and could have easily arrested the suspect.
Witnesses in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz told Haaretz that the motorist, Ziad Jilani, suddenly swerved his car and hit the group of officers walking further up the road. They said, however, that they believed the collision was an accident, and not committed intentionally as initially reported.
Jilani, 39, was self-employed and the father of three daughters. His wife is a U.S. citizen, and he himself lived for an extended period in both the U.S. and Switzerland.
Around 2 P.M. Friday, Jilani was driving his van home from prayers in nearby Shoafat. Several minutes before the incident, Border Police officers were seen riding horses toward the Wadi Joz industrial area. A number of other officers were deployed around the area, and several started making their way toward Jerusalem's Old City. Jilani's car was traveling in tightly packed, slow-moving traffic with no oncoming vehicles.
The neighborhood soon filled up with people returning from Friday prayers, and some stores were already being opened. Two eyewitnesses said stones were hurled at the officers, one of which struck Jilani's car. He then swerved his car left, they said, veering from its lane and striking the group of policemen.
Shots were heard immediately, another witness told Haaretz, and one of the officers fell to the ground. Two policemen tended to him until an ambulance arrived, and the other officers got in their vehicles and began pursuing Jilani, who had continued driving after the collision, and shooting at his car.
Another witness said that he had not seen stones thrown, but rather believed Jilani had tried to overtake the vehicles in front of him. Several other witnesses said the windshield of Jilani's car had been shattered, but were unsure if the damage had been caused by a bullet or a stone.
Jilani turned his vehicle into a dead-end alley where his uncle lives, and the officers continued pursuing his vehicle and shooting.
A mother and her adult daughter present at the scene saw the man emerge from his car. The daughter told Haaretz, "I was further down the alley, and I heard shots ... I saw a car driving, followed by many police officers. The car stopped right next to me, and someone got out. I saw him next to the car door, and he looked at me with an expression I didn't really understand, but I will never forget.
"There was shooting and I started to scream," the woman continued. "My mother ran toward me and threw me to the ground. Everything happened within seconds. I realized he wasn't walking normally, and saw the shattered windshield of the car, maybe from a stone. He ran until he fell over," she said.
Ten meters separated the parked car and the spot where Jilani fell to the ground.
"He got out of the car, and they came after him. Not just one of them shot, but many of them, and then they started yelling in Hebrew for people to go back into their homes," the daughter said.
Both women said they saw Jilani lying on his stomach with several officers gathered around him, and the daughter said one of the policemen kicked him in the head. The mother said she saw an officer point his rifle extremely close to Jilani's head, and when she put her head down to the asphalt she heard a shot ring out.
A Border Police spokesman, Chief Superintendent Moshe Pinchi, did not comment on the questions posed to him by Haaretz. In his response, Pinchi wrote, "Individuals have been killed and dozens wounded in vehicle attacks in Jerusalem between 2008 and 2009 ... All of those attacks were committed by East Jerusalem residents, and in each case those close to the perpetrators described the incidents as 'accidents.'
"Four Border Police officers were wounded in this last incident in Wadi Joz and hospitalized for treatment, and only by a miracle were fatalities avoided," he said.