E. J'lem Teens Captured on Camera Beating U.S. Immigrant to Death in Cigarette Dispute

Two East Jerusalem teenagers were charged with manslaughter yesterday in the death of a 60-year-old immigrant from the United States. A gag order on the case was lifted yesterday. According to the charge sheet, which was issued by the Jerusalem District Court, the suspects, aged 13 and 15, beat the victim because he "talked back" to them when they asked him for a cigarette.

Lance Wolf trial Tomer Appelbaum 31.8.2010
Tomer Appelbaum

The victim was named as Lance Wolf, who immigrated from Arizona about six years ago and lived mainly in various rooming houses in East Jerusalem.

On August 18, Wolf was found, unconscious and bleeding, in Kikar Hahatulot, a small square in the city center that is particularly popular with disaffected teens. A bloodied wooden board was found nearby.

Wolf was taken to Hadassah University Hospital Ein Kerem but died on August 23 from his injuries.

Security camera footage that showed two figures beating Wolf, together with footage from other surveillance cameras and investigative work led police to the two suspects, who were arrested one week ago.

The suspects at first denied beating Wolf, but eventually confessed. They told investigators they beat Wolf after he refused to give them a cigarette and then fled the scene.

Wolf lay bleeding after the assault for at least 50 minutes. Surveillance footage showed pedestrians and cars stopping next to Wolf without calling for help.

Police said that Wolf's life could possibly have been saved had he been brought to the hospital earlier.

According to the indictment, Wolf shouted at the teens, after which they approached him carrying sticks and boards they found. "The suspects, holding the sticks, approached the deceased. Suspect No. 1 hit an object on the ground with a stick, the deceased got up and took two steps toward him. He threw the stick forcefully at the head of the deceased. It hit his left temple. From the blow the deceased fell, face down. The suspects threw down the sticks and fled the scene.

Police said the suspects were part of a larger group of teens, some of whom witnessed the incident. The teens were passing around a bottle of vodka bought for them by an adult. Investigators are considering prosecuting the adult who bought the vodka.

Before the suspects' remand hearing the sister of the main culprit said, "He has a good soul, I'm sure he's sorry for what he did. That's what happens when people get drunk."

Wolf lived in Phoenix before coming to Israel. For the past year and a half, he lived on the Mount of Olives, in the home of Ibraham Abu al-Hawa, who worked to bring people of different faiths closer together and is known for providing shelter to tourists and vagrants who come to the capital from all over the world.

"He was smarter than a computer," Abu al-Hawa said about Wolf yesterday. He loved religion but hated the religious. Wolf's daughter, Annie, told Haaretz yesterday that she hadn't been in touch with her father since he split up with her mother, when she herself was an infant, but seven years ago she found him using the Internet and maintained contact via e-mail. "He didn't tell me a lot about his life but he said he liked living in Jerusalem, and that he was a peace activist," Annie said.

In addition to Annie, Wolf is survived by two sons. He was buried on August 24 in a modest ceremony, attended by a few mourners, at the cemetery in Jerualem's Givat Shaul neighborhood.