June 17 (UPI) — An Israeli Border Police officer was indicted Thursday for shooting and killing an autistic Palestinian man in East Jerusalem last year.
The 20-year-old officer, whose name has not been released to the public, was charged with manslaughter for shooting and killing Iyad al-Hallak, 32, as he walked to a special needs school in May 2020.
The charge carries a sentence of up to 12 years in prison.
A statement by prosecutors accused the officer of taking an “unreasonable risk” by shooting at al-Hallak who “performed no action that justified the shooting.”
Officers shot al-Hallak after spotting him holding what they described as a “suspicious object” near Jerusalem’s Lion’s Gate. They said they instructed al-Hallak to stop but he fled the scene, at which point border police were called. The border police helped chase al-Hallak on foot before shooting him. Afterward, the officers were unable to locate the “suspicious object.”
Warda Abu Hadid who witnessed the shooting shouted to the officers that al-Hallak was disabled and did not pose a threat and when officers asked in Arabic “Where is the gun?” Hadid replied “What gun?”
The officer who was charged then fired a second shot at al-Hallak, killing him.
Efrat Nahmani Bar, a lawyer for the charged officer, called al-Hallak’s death “a horrible tragedy” but said the officer was “absolutely positive he was dealing with a terrorist who was endangering his life.”
“Everything happened very quickly in one of the most dangerous places in the country,” she said.
Authorities faced criticism from the public after failing to charge anyone in the shooting for more than a year.
Al-Hallak’s father, Khairi al-Hallak, told The New York Times the manslaughter charge was too lenient, describing it as “unjust” and “unacceptable.”
“I’m angry,” he said. “The officer purposefully killed my son. Why only a maximum of 12 years behind bars? That’s insufficient.”