Kristine L Ming

Justice Ministry clears police of wrongdoing in case of suicide of Ethiopian-Israeli

A police disciplinary probe found no reason to take any steps against the officers accused of mistreating a man who became a symbol of the Ethiopian-Israeli community’s protests against racism and police brutality after his suicide in 2014.

Police tasered Yosef Salamsa, 22, in the stomach and arm and left him shackled outside the Zichron Ya’acov police station for a half hour after his arrest on the night of March 1, 2014. Salamsa suffered from deep depression after the incident and took his own life months later, something that his family and supporters have linked directly to his treatment by police, who they say also harassed and mistreated the family.

In mid-February, the Justice Ministry announced that it had closed its investigation against the officer involved in the case, saying that it found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, but that there were a number of instances of misconduct in how the police treated Salamsa. These included not warning him that they would use a taser, leaving him shackled and handcuffed alone outside the station, and lying in their report on the incident. The ministry said while it would not recommend criminal charges, it did call on the police disciplinary branch to examine the conduct of the officers.

The police report released Thursday states that on the night of March 1, 2014, police received a call about two suspects trying to break into a building in Binyamina, and that one of them may have had a knife. Police from Zichron Ya’acov found Salamsa who they said then punched one of the officers. They then decided to use the taser in order to subdue him and take him to the Zichron Ya’acov station.

He was released an hour later from the station, due to the fact that he was too intoxicated to be questioned, police said in their report.

They also said Salamsa was intoxicated and vomiting and was thus not allowed inside the station, but only for 35 minutes, not hours as family members claim.

On Thursday, police said “the disciplinary office of the Israel Police carried out a thorough examination of all of the matters that came up regarding this incident and the recommendations of the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigative Department, and the commissioner has ruled that administrative or command measures are not necessary against any of the police involved in the incident.”

Police added that “an exam of the findings of the probe show that this young man’s tragic death was due to a number of unfortunate circumstances and his personal background.”

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