'We Didn't Make Aliyah to Be Murdered': Hundreds at Funeral of Ethiopian Israeli Killed by Police

Investigation shows off-duty police officer may have been aiming at the ground, not at 18-year-old Solomon Teka, who's death sparked uproar over police brutality

Teka's mother at her son's funeral, July 2, 2019.
rami shllush

While family members of an 18-year-old black Israeli who was shot dead Sunday by an off-duty police office say he "was murdered," sources said Tuesday an autopsy performed on his body was inconclusive.

Ethiopian Israeli Solomon Teka, who's death sparked an uproar in the country over police brutality, was laid to rest Tuesday at noon at the Tel Regev cemetary near Haifa. Protests were set to renew across Israel after his funeral, which was attended by hundreds of people.

>> Why did they shoot him? | Editorial 

Teka's mother holds a portrait of her son during a protest outside a Haifa police station, July 1, 2019.
Amir Levy

At the funeral, David Teka, Solomon's father, spoke in Amharic. "We are asking for justice. My son is already gone," he said. "I hope that he will be the last victim. Don’t cry over my son, we demand that the murderer received what he deserves and justice is done. Help me in this struggle."

Assaf Gebane, the leader of Israel's Ethiopian community, also spoke, saying "We did not come here for them to kill our sons. We did not take this journey and pay a high price to come to this beloved land so that our children will die young and be killed before their brothers' eyes." He continued, "They have not done us a favor by bringing us to this land. How many can there be, how many were murdered? How many are dead at the hands of police? How much weeping does there need to be?"

Solomon Teka who was shot dead by an off-duty police officer in northern Israel.

Gebane also addressed the government, demanding justice for the shooting. People who abuse animals are sentenced to prison time, he said, but "a policeman and officer who harms, abandons and murders our children, we gave him a prize of 15 days to sit, plan and prepare, and in the end they'll blame our children." 

Kahol Lavan MK Gadi Yevarkat was also present, and addressed his Ethiopian community: "I would want to promise you that Solomon is the last, but I know that we will meet at the next funeral. I hope it will be far off, but it is inevitable." He said that as a member of Knesset and a representative of the community, he wished he could say something uplifting, "but that would be to lie to the public."  

He continued, "Everything will not be okay, nothing is alright. I very much hope that we will find the strength as we have every time, when we rose up from the dust and built ourselves up time after time. The youths and the young men and women who are blocking the streets of Israel, they are not just crying over the killing of Solomon, they are fighting for their personal freedom.

"Today, those who were supposed to give this eulogy were the leaders of Israel. Because this story does not belong to those from Ethiopia, not the Haredim, not the Arabs. This is a basic right of citizens, which was taken from us."

At a demonstration against the shooting of Teka, a protester holds a placard reading 'Murderers in uniform' in Haifa, July 2, 2019.
Ilan Assayag

According to the pathologist's report on the shooting death in the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Haim, Teka's body does not show definitive signs of how he was killed, sources said. The shape of the bullet after impact – which shows the angle at which it hit – may support the possibility that the shots were first aimed at the ground, and ricocheted towards Teka's chest. However, the bullet's shape could also indicate that it directly hit a bone.  

The authority to make a decision on the matter changed hands from the forensic medical specialist to a more in-depth examination of the bullet at the police's ballistic laboratory. Sources involved in the investigation claim that the findings are not certain because of first aid efforts to save Teka. Tampering with the wound caused changes that made it more difficult for investigators to get a reliable understanding of the shooting.

The police officer is expected to be questioned on the shooting again on Tuesday.

Amir Teka, Solomon’s cousin, said his death was a murder. “There's no way that he left his house, was murdered and they are saying he was killed. What was he killed by? A work accident? A car? Say murder, not killing,” he told Kan Bet public radio.

Protesters light memorial candles for Solomon Teka, July 1, 2019.
Rami Shllush

Amir mentioned that the policeman who shot Solomon was off-duty at the time of the shooting. “You go to the playground with your kid with a gun? He saw a black, what did he care about killing him?” He said. He added that the policeman who shot Yehuda Biadaga, a mentally ill Ethiopian Israeli in Bat Yam in January, was found innocent, "so what does he care?"  

The Police Investigations Department arrested the policeman who killed Teka on Sunday night. He was brought before a Haifa Magistrate’s Court judge to extend his remand and was released to house arrest until July 15. The judge put a gag order on all details related to the investigation for seven days.

The Israel Police said that the officer was not on duty at the time and was trying to separate two youths who were quarreling while he was at a playground with his wife and children. An eye witness claimed that the officer was the one who instigated the incident, threatening the youths with his weapon.

"After he identified himself as a police officer, the youths started throwing stones at him," the police said. "The officer, who claims that he feared for his life, opened fire, and the circumstances are under investigation."

Another eyewitness that was present at the scene of the shooting told Haaretz that "the police officer wasn't in a life-threatening situation. He assumed a firing position and shot Solomon who was at least 30 meters away from him."

Police officers at the scene of the shooting, Kiryat Haim, June 30, 2019.
Rami Shllush

Teka, who recently celebrated his 18th birthday, was born and raised in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar and immigrated to Israel six years ago. His parents bought an apartment in the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Yam. In ninth grade, Teka left the local school and attended the Yemin Orde boarding school in Nir Etzion, coming home once every two weeks. Over the past year he had dropped out of school, worked at odd jobs and waited to be drafted.

Teka had had previous run-ins with the police, and his relatives claim that, as in other cases involving youth from the Ethiopian Israeli community, the response was disproportionate. “He was a healthy, big kid, who could look threatening,” said his cousin Amir.

"Solomon, when he came to Israel, was a good boy who respected his environment and his parents,” said another relative, Itay Ashatu. “There are kids who are products of the difficult reality they’re in. Every teenager who comes from Ethiopia who’s defined as on the edge is a good person underneath it all, but the reality is difficult and there are things that aren’t taken care of."

"It’s hard to be black in Israel and walk around feeling secure," Ashatu added. "Even a policeman of Ethiopian origin, once he takes off his uniform, is at risk of taking a bullet in the head. Parents aren’t afraid of road accidents or terrorists, they are afraid of policemen. There’s no faith in any system, there’s no justice."