Cop Likely Won't Be Indicted for Manslaughter in Deadly Shooting of Ethiopian Israeli Teen

Prosecutors to pursue lesser charge of negligent homicide in case that sparked wave of protest over police brutality, sources say

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Solomon Teka's family members attending his funeral in a Haifa suburb, June 30, 2019.
Solomon Teka's family members attending his funeral in a Haifa suburb, June 30, 2019. Credit: Rami Shllush

A police officer who shot and killed Solomon Teka, 18-year-old Israeli of Ethiopian descent, is expected to be indicted within coming month.

The officer was off duty when he shot to death Teka in Kiryat Haim, a suburb of Haifa, in late June. Teka's death sparked an extensive wave of protests, mainly by the Ethiopian Israeli community. 

The State Prosecutor’s Office and the Justice Ministry’s unit for investigating police officers will hold a series of sessions in the next few days on the case. The investigators in the case recommended to indict the police officer for reckless manslaughter, after they concluded that although Teka had physically confronted the policeman and threw rocks at him, he had no justifiable reason to draw his gun and fire, officials involved in the investigation said.

But because of the legal difficulty to completely rule out the policeman’s version of the events, the prosecution is leaning toward an indictment on a lesser charge of negligent homicide, a crime with a maximum sentence of three years, said law enforcement sources. The maximum sentence for reckless manslaughter is 12 years in prison.

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Solomon TekaCredit: Courtesy of the family

Prosecutors are also considering charging the officer with other crimes, such as negligent use of a weapon or taking rash action, though law enforcement officials think it is unlikely such additional charges will be filed. The maximum sentence for the weapons charge is three years in prison.

A number of law enforcement officials ruled out the possibility that the criminal case against the policeman would be closed in favor of disciplinary proceedings, saying such a step was not under consideration. This case is very complex because the police officer said he felt his life was in danger and because he only fired at the ground, after which the bullet ricocheted and hit Teka in the chest, said the officials.

The Justice Ministry unit took additional moves to complete the investigation over the past two weeks. They spoke again with witnesses who had been questioned at the beginning of the investigation and requested additional materials from other bodies involved in the investigation, among other steps.

The police officer was questioned twice more as part of the completion of the investigation, and he repeated his version of the events. Investigators found that the police officer unloaded his pistol immediately after he fired.

He still is receiving protection because of threats against him, and is suspended from the force until the end of October, at least.

The Teka family’s lawyer did not comment as of this article's publication.