Family of Knife-wielding 24 Year Old Killed by Israeli Police Decry Unnecessary Use of Force

24-year-old Ethiopian-Israeli Yehuda Biadga struggled with a mental disorder, his family and a police source say ■ Police shot him in the upper body at close range, while second officer had a Taser gun available

File photo: Undated photo of Yehuda Biadga, who was shot dead by Israeli police in the central city of Bat Yam on January 18, 2019.
Biadga family

A knife-wielding Ethiopian-Israeli man was shot dead by police forces on Friday in the central city of Bat Yam, in what his family claims was unnecessary use of force. 24-year-old Yehuda Biadga struggled with a mental disorder, his family and a police source say.

Police were called to a street corner near the family's home after Biadga, who his brother-in-law says recently stopped taking his medication, threatened to attack his parents. He ran toward the two officers with a knife in his hand and was subsequently shot by one of them from a distance of only several meters.

Biadga's brother, David, said that the way police officers at the scene handled the situation was "not normal," and added: "With terrorists, who come to hurt us, they say 'don’t shoot', and even if they shoot, they aim at their legs. Here, with a civilian, someone comes and shoots his upper body."

A police source told Haaretz that Biadga didn't stop in place when ordered to do so by police, and only then was he shot. Biadga threatened to hurt others in the street, the source added. The officers "couldn’t have acted differently," he claimed.

Scene of fatal shooting of Yehuda Biadga, Bat Yam, January 18, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

A witness said Biadga "walked around with the knife and an officer stopped his motorcycle and screamed something at him… He started making two big steps toward the policeman, the distance between them was two or three meters, and then the officer started shooting."

Biadga's brother-in-law, Hegus Wubio, who has been volunteering with the Israeli police for four years, said he was the one who called the police. After the incident, he said, he would stop volunteering. "I'll throw away my uniform, I'm ashamed of them," he said, referring to the police's treatment of Ethiopian Israelis. "How long are we going to carry on like this?"

"They shot a man in the head at a pedestrian crossing," he said, claiming the police's account of a "raging suspect" is inaccurate. "Why didn't they fire (a warning shot) in the air? Why shoot right in his head to kill him?"

Wubio added that when the family arrived at the hospital to which Biadga had been rushed, "they wouldn't let me see him and the policemen told us not to go in. In the end they let the parents in and told them he was dead. How did they shoot him? Who shot him? No one is giving us these details."

"My brother was completely normative, a God-fearing man," David said. He added Biadga completed his studies in a Yeshiva high school with distinction and later served in the Israel Defense Forces.

The officers at the scene hadn't carried a body camera on them, despite the fact that the police's Tel Aviv District had already begun equipping officers with them. The other officer, the one who didn't shoot Biadga, had a Taser gun, which he did not use.

The Israel Police said in a statement that one of the officers at the scene "who sensed an immediate threat to his life, shot at the suspect." The police added: "Just like any similar incident, the details of the case are examined by the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers."