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Ethiopian-Israeli teen shot and killed by off-duty police officer who felt under threat

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Ethiopian-Israeli teen was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer who said he felt in danger after he tried to break up a street fight in a Haifa suburb.

Solomon Tekah, 19, was killed Sunday night in Kiryat Haim, in northern Israel. Eyewitnesses to the incident told the police and Israeli media that the officer was not in danger when he shot Tekah, according to reports.

The police officer, 33, was arrested overnight Sunday and later released to house arrest until July 15. His name is under a gag order due to fears for his safety.

Police have opened an investigation into the incident.

“He approached the group of people that were involved in the fight and after making clear to the group that he was a policeman, they started throwing stones at him,” the police said in a statement.

According to the off-duty officer, he felt his life was in danger and pulled out his pistol and shot one of the boys. The officer, who was walking to a local park with his wife and three children, told police that he aimed at the ground.

Dozens of Ethiopian Israelis protested Monday morning in front of the Haifa police station where the officer reportedly is stationed.

Police have been accused of racism and brutality against Ethiopian Israelis.

In January, thousands of demonstrators protested in Tel Aviv following an incident in which police shot and killed Yehuda Biadga, 24, a mentally ill Ethiopian-Israeli man who police say charged an officer while brandishing a knife. Several protesters clashed with police at the end of the demonstration.

Ethiopian-Israeli lawmaker Pnina Tamano-Shata of the Blue and White party said police have declared “open season” on Ethiopian-Israeli youth.

“Our children’s lives are less secure and the reaction of the community will be severe,” she said. “This is because of the failure of the Israeli government and its branches, including the public security minister and the Police Internal Investigations Department, to deal with the situation.”

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