Deputy head of police investigations unit slams own department in ‘flawed’ handling of teen’s death

The Police Investigations Department released the policemen involved in the fatal accident — an “irregular” step, Moshe Saada wrote to the State Attorney’s office.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Police Investigations Department (PID) is bungling the investigation into the death of Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed during a high-speed police chase two weeks ago, the deputy head of the department charged Monday.

In a sharply worded letter to Deputy State Attorney for Criminal Affairs Shlomo Lemberger revealed on Radio 103FM, Moshe Saada wrote that “The PID is not bothering to do the minimum required of it in a case of the death of a minor and violence against detainees.”

Sixteen-year-old Sandak was one of five youths whose car was being pursued on December 21 by undercover officers on suspicion of having thrown stones at Palestinian vehicles in the Binyamin region. At a certain point, the car went off the road and flipped over, killing Sandak and lightly injuring his friends.

The police denied any responsibility for the accident, and are charging the driver with reckless driving and causing Sandak’s death. However, even in their initial interrogation, wrote Saada, the youths maintained that the police car had hit them, causing the accident, and one said that the officers had beat them severely once they were caught.

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An internal investigation into the officers’ behavior only began after public uproar ensued when the youths’ version of the events was publicized. Even then, Saada wrote, the PID’s investigators didn’t collect detailed testimony from the youths.

Saada also wrote that the officers involved in the fatal incident, who had been detained as per standard procedure given that they were accused by the youths of being responsible for the accident, should not have been released. This was “irregular conduct” on the part of PID head Keren Bar Menachem.

He charged that Lemberger was ignoring a string of failures of the investigation that are “heavily damaging…the public’s trust” in law enforcement.

Saada’s claims were backed Monday by the expert opinion solicited by Sandak’s family of a former police officer in the traffic division who determined that the version put forward by the officers involved was not truthful. They had attested that the highway collision was caused by the fleeing driver suddenly swerving from his lane and striking their car.

However, David Ben-Zaken, who investigated accidents for the police for some three decades and examined the site, wrote that it would be highly unlikely for this to happen without leaving brake-marks on the road – which he did not find.

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His report concluded that the young men’s car had not swerved left as the police claimed. “The accident occurred while both vehicles were moving [and] the car in which the youths were riding flipped over twice as a result of the collision,” he said.

There have been almost nightly demonstrations throughout the country demanding “justice for Ahuvia,” with dozens detained and many claiming brutal behavior on the part of the arresting officers.

Nineteen Knesset members from religious parties Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yemina sent a letter Thursday to the justice minister, calling for an external commission of inquiry. Some Likud lawmakers have also joined the call for a separate investigation into the fatal accident.

According to Kan News, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sandak’s parents on Thursday, saying, “The truth about the circumstances of your son’s death will come to light.”