New evidence acquired by Haaretz corroborates the allegation that Israel's highest-ranking Arab police officer left a man to bleed to death when he was off duty, in contradiction to his account this week that “he secured the scene of the murder” before leaving.
Additional video evidence and testimony from people who were present indicate that Jamal Hakhrush, who heads the police unit in charge of fighting crime in the Arab community, left the scene of the crime and only returned around 10 minutes later.
Hakhrush happened to be present at a factory in the northern Israel town of Kafr Kana when a murder occurred in September 2020. Video footage, first published by Haaretz, shows him stepping over the victim without stopping to help. He has been put on leave while the police investigate the incident.
Here is what actually happened, based on the evidence:
About a minute after Hakhrush stepped over the victim, Ghazi Amara, footage from nearby security cameras shows Amara being loaded into a BMW owned by a lawyer, so he could be taken to a local clinic.
The footage also shows a white Skoda with tinted windows which, according to testimonies, belongs to Hakhrush. The Skoda is seen reversing out of the parking lot, with the suspected killer still on the loose and the victim not yet evacuated to hospital.
As the car backs out, the door on the passenger side opens twice. The person who drove Amara to the clinic can then be seen shouting toward the Skoda, but the vehicle continues driving toward the road.
The next time the Skoda can be seen at the scene of the crime is approximately 10 minutes later, when it appears on a policeman’s body camera. By then, the policeman had already arrested the suspected murderer, Fadi Amara, who had barricaded himself in the factory’s kitchen.
Senior police officers who spoke with Haaretz on Monday confirmed what the footage seems to show: Hakhrush left the scene without taking control of the incident and returned only after other officers had the situation under control.
“He simply got in the car, drove away and returned several minutes later, after police had already arrived at the scene,” one said. “None of the first cops to arrive saw him, and the scene wasn’t secured at all. Only after the stabber was arrested, after he had barricaded himself in the kitchen, did Hakhrush arrive for the first time.”
This account is very different from what Hakhrush told the media on Monday. In an interview with Kan public television, he said he stood guard at the door of the kitchen while the suspect was inside, secured the area and left it “sterile.” He also said the quarrel between suspect and victim didn’t occur in the office where he was sitting, and that the factory owner had asked him not to intervene.
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“Sometime later, someone came and said, ‘He’s been stabbed, he’s been stabbed,’” Hakhrush recounted. “We ran to the scene. At that moment, I felt I had to act like a policeman.
“The first thing you have to do is stop the crime from continuing, and that was done. The suspect was locked in a room. We guarded the room until the police came.
“The second thing is to secure the crime scene while summoning the [forensic] professionals… All of this was done, and I ran toward the stairwell to secure the scene until the regular cops arrived,” he said.
The video footage that shows him jumping over the victim, he added, “shows those six seconds when I was running toward the stairwell to secure the scene and leave a sterile scene for the professionals to deal with.”
But footage from the other cops’ body cameras also refutes his story. The first cops to arrive were two patrolmen. Around 10 people who were present at the factory escorted them from the patrol car to the second floor, where the kitchen was located. But at that point, the scene wasn’t secured or cordoned off in any way.
“Is there anything unusual there?” one patrolman asked over the radio while climbing the stairs. The second replied, “I see blood and marks, apparently there was violence here.”
In the background, the family can be heard screaming. “I’ll beat you up!” the suspect’s brother threatened.
The patrolman managed to separate them and called for backup over the radio. But even as Ghazi Amara’s father continued cursing the suspect, nobody was protecting the suspect from him or other relatives of the victim who were threatening him.
The patrolmen asked the secretary what happened, and she told them that Hakhrush had been there but left. That was the first they had heard of his presence.
The footage shows someone in a white shirt asking the secretary why Hakhrush had been there, and she said he came to settle his account with the factory. “By chance, he saw everything happening before his eyes,” she added.
Someone asked her whether he witnessed the stabbing. “Yes, but he didn’t actually see the knife penetrate,” she replied.
At this point, another relative arrived, and the family continued cursing and threatening the suspect. The patrolmen radioed again for backup and used a taser to keep the father away from the suspect.
Around six minutes after the patrolmen arrived, a group of riot police showed up. At this point, the suspect turned himself in, was handcuffed and taken to the patrol car. That is when Hakhrush reappeared.
His conversation with the other policemen upon his return strengthens the accusation that he hadn’t been present the entire time and didn’t secure the crime scene.
One of the riot policemen can be heard telling a patrolman, “Look, what’s his name, Hakhrush, has arrived.” The patrolman replied, “He was here during the incident, he came to pay for something.”
Hakhrush approached the patrolmen, and after exchanging greetings, one asked him, “You were here?” Hakhrush replied, “Yes, I came to pay for something.”
As Haaretz reported earlier this week, senior police officers knew about Hakhrush’s conduct at the scene immediately after it happened, but failed to take any action.
Asked for comment on Tuesday, a police spokesperson reiterated that Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai had launched a committee of inquiry. “When the inquiry is finished and its conclusions are submitted, the public will also be informed of them as needed,” the spokesperson added.