J'lem Police Chief: Cop on Duty Should've Stopped Yeshiva Attacker

Probe of Mercaz Harav attack finds 16 minutes passed between gunman's first shot and his subdual.

Jerusalem District Police Chief Aharon Franco said on Wednesday that the patrol officer called to the scene of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva attack earlier this month should have tried to make direct contact with the terrorist, rather than waiting at the entrance to the school while the shooting continued.

Franco presented his assessment on the matter during a meeting with the Knesset Interior Committee.

According to an investigation of the attack, in which eight yeshiva students were killed, some 16 minutes elapsed from the moment the terrorist fired his first gunshot until he was subdued by fire from an Israel Defense Forces officer, David Shapira and yeshiva student Yitzhak Dadon.

The first patrol officer to reach the site of the attack did not enter the yeshiva and did not open fire at the gunman.

According to the investigation, at least one additional moment elapsed between the officer's arrival on the scene and Shapira's entry into the yeshiva.

During the Knesset committee discussion, Franco said that he had still not decided what steps would be taken against the patrol officer, but said "every policeman, in uniform or out of uniform, that arrives at an crime scene like this and knows people are being murdered, must respond."

"The patrol officer who arrived first was obligated to make contact and stop the shooting," Franco added.

According to the police investigation, the attacker was in the midst of becoming a more devout Muslim. Despite the fact that he had no criminal record, police discovered that he had stolen cars and weapons in Hebron in the past.

"We had no concrete intelligence regarding the attacker's plans," Franko said.

The police said that on the day of the attack the assailant went to work as usual and drove children to Mevasseret Zion and Jerusalem. He finished working at 6 p.m. and then headed to the yeshiva.

Franco described the exact timeline of the attack:

8:30 p.m. - The attacker enters the yeshiva and opens fire.

8:36 - Students in the yeshiva call for police and ambulances.

8:40 - The first police car arrives at the scene, does not enter.

8:42 - Shapira enters the yeshiva.

8:43 - Two detectives arrive at the scene.

8:45 - Dadon and Shapira exchange fire with the attacker.

8:46 - Attacker is killed.

Police officers already expressed criticism of the patrol officer's behavior at a meeting just after the attack.

"Franco said the officer explained that he preferred to 'freeze the situation,' in police lingo, to prevent civilians from entering," one officer said during the March 11 meeting.

"But the officer's approach was simply wrong and unprofessional. If civilians are being shot inside the yeshiva, an officer can't stand outside and not go in. It is unacceptable for a police officer to behave in that manner during a terror attack," he said.