Israeli Police Who Shot 24-year-old Told He Was Mentally Unstable, Senior Official Says

'I hoped the police would protect him,' says mother of man killed by officer in central city of Bat Yam ■ 'He got two bullets because he’s Ethiopian,' says family friend

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

The family of Yehuda Biadga, the 24-year-old man of Ethiopian origin who was shot to death by a policeman in the central Israeli city of Bat Yam on Friday, warned the police on the phone that he suffered from a mental disorder and hadn’t taken his medications, a senior official involved in the investigation said.

The family called the police twice asking them to come to the scene out of fear that Biadga, who was holding a knife, would hurt someone, the official added.

The official said that passersby who saw Biadga also called the police. One person told the police: “Come quickly, it looks like he’s holding a sword.” The family said they called the police several times on Friday but they arrived only after about 50 minutes.

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The police acknowledged the phone calls, but said that there was no report of unusual behavior. They said that the Tel Aviv District gets thousands of such calls a year, and most of them are not considered emergencies.

Biadga was released from military service in the combat engineers about half a year after being drafted, due to a psychological trauma. Since then he has lived with his parents, did not work, took medications and was even hospitalized because of his condition. He received treatment and was in contact with a social worker.

Biadga’s mother said that her son suffered from post-traumatic stress in the army and hasn’t spoken for two years. On the day of the shooting she wasn’t home, but asked a friend of Biagda to call the police when she heard he had left the house. “I hoped the police would protect him and keep him safe,” she said. No one from the police has spoken to her since Friday, she said.

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

A family friend told Haaretz: “A 24-year-old guy was deliberately murdered. He got two bullets because he’s Ethiopian, the politicians don’t help us. They murdered him in cold blood.”

A demonstration in Tel Aviv entitled “We demand justice for Yehuda” was announced for Monday, but the family has asked that it be postponed until the end of the shiva, the traditional Jewish seven-day mourning period. An ad for the demonstration claimed that Biadga was murdered by the police, critizing officers of resorting to violence more readily against Ethiopians and other minorities.

Social activist Avi Yalou said: “We see time and again how the police use violence against youths of Ethiopian origin. Yehuda’s story illustrates even more how quick the police are on the trigger when it comes to Ethiopians.”

Yehuda’s mother "eventually ordered her son’s death," Yalou added. "She thought her child would receive equal treatment and instead they returned a body to her." He said the police should prosecute the policeman who shot Biagda, and claimed that the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers is not objective.

The Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers is looking into the case, but has yet to question the policeman involved, who has returned to work.

Ethopian religious leader Keis Avihu Azariya said that the incident may have happened by mistake, but it should be investigated. He called for the Ethiopian community not to act out of anger but engage in peaceful, nonviolent protest.