Israel’s Department of Internal Investigations said Monday that there is no video footage of the police shooting of an unarmed autistic Palestinian man, Eyad Hallaq, in May in Jerusalem.
In a meeting with Hallaq’s family, members of the unit investigating police misconduct said that the cameras in the garbage room where Hallaq was shot were not operational on that day.
The investigators did not elaborate on other security cameras in the area, although Haaretz has found that there are no fewer than 10 private and security cameras in the 150 meters between the Old City’s Lions Gate, where the chase began, and the garbage room where Hallaq was shot to death.
However, to date, neither the suspected officers nor the eyewitnesses have been shown footage of the chase or shooting during the investigation.
Hallaq, 32, was a low-functioning autistic man who was on his way to a special needs school in the Old City and apparently panicked when approached by Border Police officers. He was pursued and shot dead in a garbage room where he hid.
His father, Khairi, told Haaretz on Monday that they went to the meeting with police investigators but “did not understand anything, we were told there were cameras but they did not work. Every passing day we feel worse than the day before. We haven’t left the house in 40 days. You cannot imagine how hard it is.”
The attorney representing the family said that they are “very surprised that there is no footage from the garbage room, our request is to open a very in-depth investigation into whether evidence has been concealed. Because it is not possible that cameras were placed there and yet there is no documentation. We have a very strong suspicion that [the police] are concealing evidence in this case.”
Police also told Hallaq’s family that the investigation is nearing its end, that they had collected eyewitness testimonies, and all police officers involved in the incident were investigated.
On Sunday, the police officer who is the main suspect in the shooting was questioned for the second time since the incident. During the interrogation, investigators presented the suspect with testimonies of other police officers that contradicted his own. The policeman reiterated his version that as far as he understood in that moment, he was pursuing a man suspected of being an armed terrorist. The suspect also claimed that the fact that Hallaq wore gloves increased his suspicion that it he was dangerous, and after Hallaq entered the garbage room, he made a suspicious move that led him to open fire.
Original: Nir Hasson and Josh Breiner – HAARETZ
Last month, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court accepted a police request to bar the publication of minutes from a hearing on a petition filed by Halak’s family seeking the release of security camera footage from the incident.
Halak’s family members told reporters at the time they did not believe Israel would do “anything” to the offending cops because the victim was Palestinian.
The two policemen involved in the incident have given conflicting accounts of the events, with a commander telling investigators he had urged his subordinate officer to cease fire, an order that was not followed, he said. The officer denied the commander’s account.
The two were questioned under caution after the shooting. The officer was placed under house arrest and his commander was released from custody under restrictive conditions.
An eyewitness has reportedly confirmed the testimony of Halak’s teacher, saying he was shot while he lay on the floor, and that officers were told at the time that he was disabled.
According to the Haaretz daily, the second, unnamed, witness was sitting in the garbage room, in actual fact a storage area used by cleaners, where Halak was shot, and gave testimony on the day of the shooting to an investigator from the left-wing watchdog B’Tselem.
The witness said that Halak ran into the room and collapsed on the floor.
According to the witness, at this point, Warda Abu Hadid, Halak’s teacher, arrived at the scene, while she testified that she had come after hearing the initial shots and had arrived before Halak, who had run in and collapsed wounded in a corner.
The witness said Abu Hadid shouted at the police officers in Hebrew: “He’s disabled,” and then repeated it in Arabic.
Abu Hadid also told Israeli media that she informed the police officers that he was disabled and could not understand their commands, but said they ignored her cries, despite him repeatedly screaming, “I’m with her, I’m with her!”
Human rights groups say Israel has a poor record of prosecuting cases of violence against Palestinians.