Two police officers involved in the car chase that ended in a fatal accident, killing a teenage Israeli suspect in the West Bank, are under a high level of threat and have been assigned protection, police said on Sunday.
On Monday, right-wing activists were suspected of vandalizing police cars near Yad Binyamin, a community identified with religious Zionism in central Israel.
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Two patrol cars near the community's police station were sprayed with graffiti saying “Hello from Ahuvia,” a reference to 16-year-old Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed in the police car chase last week. The vehicles also had their tires slashed and windows broken, while graffiti on the police station's walls had the word “murderers” spray painted on it.
Sandak, a resident of Bat Ayin in the Gush Etzion West Bank settlement bloc, was killed last Monday after police chased him and his friends, who were suspected of throwing stones at Palestinians in the West Bank. Officers crashed into their car from behind, causing it to flip, fatally injuring Sandak and lightly to moderately injuring his friends.
Under questioning, the policemen said Sandak was left trapped under the car for at least 10 minutes because his detained friends refused to tell them if anyone else had been in the car. Protests over Sandak's killing were recently held in Yad Binyamin.
Police said they were preparing for possible attacks by right-wing activists on Palestinians and police facilities in the West Bank. As a result, security has been ramped up around the homes of the two officers considered under a high level of threat.
The police’s threat assessment came after 1,000 protesters gathered in front of the national headquarters of the police in Jerusalem on Saturday, some chanting "A Jew does not kill a Jew" and "God will avenge his blood," demanding a committee be established to investigate Sandak's death.
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The four policemen involved in the chase were questioned as suspects last Thursday and were released to their homes. It has not yet been decided what crime they are suspected of, with the suspicions ranging from manslaughter to causing death by negligence.
During an interrogation following the incident, one of the police officers said they received a report of five masked men throwing stones at Palestinian cars, endandering other drivers. “We didn’t know they were Jews,” the officer said during the interrogation.
The four suspects, who were lightly injured, claimed that the car they had been in turned over after the detectives pursued them and deliberately crashed into them.
The policemen said that after the car flipped, Sandak’s friends tried to flee the scene and refused to say if anyone else had been with them after they were caught. They therefore didn’t know Sandak was trapped under the car, delaying his rescue. “There was no intention to crash into them,” the officer told investigators.
The four other passengers in the car, two adults and two minors, are suspected of causing Sandak’s death by negligence and other crimes. The investigation is being conducted by a joint team from the Tel Aviv Police and the Justice Ministry’s department for investigation of police officers, an unusual move that was criticized in the State Prosecutor’s Office.
“This decision is liable to undermine the investigation, since some of the witnesses may fear to speak out of concern it would harm them, which will impinge on the credibility of any decision made in this case,” a source in the State Prosecutor’s Office said.
On Sunday, Haifa’s District Court issued a gag order on the publication of any details of the officers, following a request of Judea and Samaria Police, which the police officers involved in the crash belong to.
Meanwhile Public Security Minister Amir Ohana visited the Sandak family Sunday in Bat Ayin.
Lawyers representing the police officers said their clients had acted lawfully in response to an alleged act of dangerous stone-throwing and that the accident was the result of the other driver’s ignoring the policemen’s calls to stop and incautious driving.
“The claims being made against the policemen are an unworthy attempt to remove responsibility from the detainees for the death of their friend,” one of the lawyers said.