Israel Police Probe Reveals Serious Flaws in Shooting of Suicidal Teenager

Investigation into death of Raz Attias in 2012 shows police volunteers endangered 18-year-old's girlfriend and themselves by firing 26 rounds at him.

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

An internal police investigation into last year's fatal shooting by police volunteers of a teenager as he held a gun to his girlfriend's head, threatening to kill her and then himself, reveals serious administrative and operational flaws in the operation.

At 5:59 P.M. on October 18, 2012, the newsroom of Channel 2 received an email from Raz Attias, in which the 18-year-old threatened to commit suicide together with his girlfriend. Station employees forwarded the email to the Israel Police. It took the police an hour and a half to track down the IP address of the computer from which the email was sent. At 8:04 P.M., officers arrived at the presumed location, an apartment in Bat Yam whose tenants had no connection to the incident. Not until 10:33 P.M. did the officers reach the Petah Tikva home of the Attias family.

Raz Attias, meanwhile, was by that time already picking up his girlfriend, whose name has not been released for publication, from her home in Jerusalem. He did not answer his cellphone, but the police tracked the location of the phone as Raz drove through the city in the direction of Moshav Nes Harim, eight kilometers south-west of the city.

A number of police units and volunteers were dispatched to the area, and after a brief chase Attias hit a safety barrier and stopped his car. As several police vehicles surrounded his car, volunteers - led by area volunteers commander Gil Refua - left their vehicle and approached Attias' car. According to officers at the scene, after one of the volunteers fired into the air and Attias shot at the officers, the volunteers opened fire on Attias. Four volunteers fired their weapons during the incident. Refua fired two bullets at Attias from a Glock 19 pistol in his possession that is not authorized for Israel Police use.

Two other volunteers, whose names were given only as Eliav and Orr, had M16 rifles; together with a volunteer identified as Motti, the three fired 26 rounds at Attias while his girlfriend sat next to him. Attias was killed in the incident, his girlfriend was unharmed.

Investigators concluded that the volunteers endangered both the girlfriend and themselves, since the volunteers could easily have shot each other because they failed to maintain safe angles of fire. Investigators also found fault with the police for assigning the volunteer unit which was trained to assist in searching open areas with general policing duties.

The Jerusalem District Police spokesman said in response that the police initiated their own investigation of their deployment of volunteers and have applied the lessons of their investigation. In addition, he said the internal investigation determined that the volunteers fired after one of their own number was shot in the head by Attias, and as a result of Attias' girlfriend being in lethal danger from Attias.

Illustration: Israel police on duty.Credit: Eyal Toueg

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