The policeman shot Sami al-Ja’ar, a 21-year-old from Rahat, in January 2015. According to the prosecution, the Bedouin had resisted arrest after a police round-up of suspected drug dealers resulted in clashes with young Rahat men.
The policeman, whose name is under a gag order, initially told investigators he had fired in the air. Only when presented with ballistic evidence that disproved this claim did he admit that a low-trajectory bullet had “slipped out.” The evidence included a bullet matching his pistol that had Al-Ja’ar’s blood on it.
Following this admission, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit ordered police to file disciplinary charges against the policeman. Mendelblit decided on disciplinary rather than criminal charges because he said there wasn’t enough evidence to disprove the policeman’s claim that he pulled the trigger involuntarily.
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Two weeks ago, the policeman was convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer and punished with a reprimand – one of the lightest penalties in the disciplinary arsenal – even though the verdict stressed that a policeman is supposed to accurately report the facts at all times, and the defendant had not done so.
“In Israel today, it’s possible to kill and get off with a reprimand,” Al-Ja’ar’s father said after the verdict.
The policeman’s attorney, Gil Dachoach, said that anyone familiar with the evidence would see “that the policeman didn’t lie during his investigation, but merely supplemented his earlier story, while stressing that fear of revenge had prevented him from telling the full story at the first opportunity.”
Since the full story came out, Dachoach added, the policeman and his family have been under round-the clock protection, including a police patrol car to escort his children to kindergarten. “His life has become hell, just as he foresaw,” the lawyer said.