Israel Police closes internal investigation into fatal shooting of 22 year-old Khair Hamdan last November, saying evidence demonstrates officers acted in self defense.
By Hassan Shaalan
The Police Investigation Unit announced Tuesday that it would close the investigation into a police officer who shot and killed Khair Hamdan, a resident of Kafr Kanna, last year – an incident which led to major rioting and violence in the area.
The police found during the investigation that an officer who was driving the police patrol vehicle was the one who shot Hamdan, 22, and not another officer who was seen in a video of the incident holding a gun pointed at Hamdan.
Before he was shot, Hamdan was seen in the footage approaching the patrol car with a large kitchen knife in his hand – 29 cm long – and calling out “Allahu Akbar”.
During the investigation, several aspects of the incident were investigated. Officers thoroughly examined security footage of the event, sought out witnesses – including village residents and the victim’s family – and gathered expert testimony.
According to the investigation’s report, a police patrol arrived at the village on November 8, 2014, in order to arrest a man suspected of throwing a grenade. During the arrest, another young man, most likely Hamdan, attacked police outside the home of the suspect.
The young man resisted police orders to leave the area and continued approaching them with the intention of attacking them, according to police findings. A police officer then shoved the man and when that did not work, another officer sprayed him with pepper spray.
The investigation further revealed that after the first suspect was arrested and put inside the patrol car, the police continued on to the home of a second suspect they planned to arrest, but got lost on the way and ended up back in the area near the home of the first suspect. It was then that Hamdan ran towards the patrol car with a knife in his hand.
Hamdan hit the window of the patrol car with the knife several times and tried to open the doors. One of the officers then opened one of the car doors and fired a shot in the air. According to the report, Hamdan was not scared off by the shot and only got more violent and began hitting the car door window from which the officer fired the shot in the air.
At this point, another officer exited the vehicle and approached Hamdan. The officer had his gun out and Hamdan took a few steps back while still holding the knife in his hand, despite the officer’s orders to calm down and drop the knife. Meanwhile, the officer driving the car stuck his body out of the car and pointed his gun at Hamdan.
The driver said he believed that his fellow police officer, who was standing outside in front of Hamdan, was going to get hurt, “a belief that was based on the fact that the deceased had acted maniacally during the event,” the report noted.
The officer who fired the shot that killed Hamdan said that his fellow officer was very close to Hamdan, who was still holding a knife, and therefore fired one shot at him, which caused Hamdan to collapse. Hamdan later died of his wounds.
The entire incident lasted 13 minutes.
“In these types of situations, a mistake in judgment is not a basis for a criminal offense,” the report said.
According to testimony from the other police officers and from a relative of Hamdan’s who was inside the police vehicle, as well as an analysis of communications between the police and Magen David Adom paramedics, the report found no issues in the evacuation of Hamdan’s body from the scene to an ambulance and later to a hospital.
“An analysis of the evidence shows that the shooting falls under the definition of self-defense. The analysis further shows that due to the special circumstances of the incident, there isn’t a reasonable suspicion of a criminal offense by the police officer, who operated in the heat of the moment, in a complex situation and had to make a quick decision in an ongoing incident, which only lasted a couple of seconds, while his life was at risk. Therefore, as stated, it was decided to shelve the investigation.”
Hamdan’s family members were unconvinced by the police’s explanations. “This isn’t the first time they close a case like this, but in our case there’s documentation that verifies the officer’s actions – he shot my son and killed him,” Hamdan’s father said.
“They claimed that my son the shahid posed a threat to the policemen’s lives. That is a lie. There was no danger. They murdered him in cold blood. If he was Jewish, they wouldn’t have shot him,” the father added.
View original Ynet publication at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4654061,00.html