Israel Closes Criminal Investigation Into Two Policemen Accused of Brutality Toward Ethiopian

Two policemen used a stun gun on Yosef Salamsa, 22, in 2014, and left him outside the Zichron Yaakov police station afterward. Salamsa took his own life three months later.

Yosef Salamsa's mother and others protest against police brutality and racism in Tel Aviv, June 23, 2015.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Justice Ministry department for the investigation of police officers announced Sunday that it was closing the criminal investigation against two policemen who used a stun gun on Yosef Salamsa, 22, in 2014, and left him outside the Zichron Yaakov police station afterward.

Three months after the incident, Salamsa was found at the foot of a cliff in Binyamina, having apparently taken his own life. His family said he had been in a difficult emotional state that was intensified by the violent confrontation with the police.

The department said that the policemen had lied when they reported they had warned Salamsa before delivering the electric shock, but that this was not a criminal infraction and had to be dealt with on a disciplinary level. 

Salamsa was arrested in April 2014 after reports were received of a knife-wielding man in a public park who was trying to break into a building. Police suspected Salamsa and used a taser gun to shock him during his arrest. His father later reported finding him lying on the ground, his hands and feet cuffed, outside the police station. The family said he had needed psychological treatment after the incident and had been physically injured as well, based on a report they submitted from Hillel Yaffe Hospital in Hadera.

The department said that while an investigation was opened, Salamsa did not respond to repeated requests to come file a detailed complaint, nor did his family cooperate with department investigators and so the case was closed. Three months later, it was reopened after Salamsa was found dead. The two patrol officers involved were questioned under caution and Salamsa’s parents this time gave testimony, as did eyewitnesses. 

Still, the investigators did not find enough evidence to warrant criminal charges, although they recommended disciplinary action against the two for lying about the warning and for leaving Salamsa outside the police station for 35 minutes. Police regulations require that a warning be issued before using a stun gun on a suspect. 

“When the material is received it will be examined, as usual, by the police’s disciplinary department, which will weigh taking administrative and/or disciplinary steps accordingly,” Israel Police said.

During last year’s mass demonstrations by Ethiopian Israelis against police brutality, Salamsa’s case was raised several times; demonstrators called his name and carried his picture as a symbol of police hostility and discrimination against those of Ethiopian origin.