A man who tried to rob a bank branch in Zichron Yaakov fled to the yard of a private house and was shot by a policeman (Photo: Shlomi Gabay, Editing by Yair Daniel)
"Negligent and unprofessional conduct on the part of the police officers involved in the arrest of the deceased led to the tragic result that could have been foreseen - the killing of the deceased," Judge Amir Chekhanovich ruled in a ruling handed down last week at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, and this was already clear at the scene. But the police, once again denying her guilt, brazenly lied, not only to the media but also in court. The ruling, which states that the death of a mentally ill person from Zichron Yaakov was caused by the negligence of police officers, is consistent with the impression of many factors in light of the police's coping in recent years with other mentally ill patients who ended in their deaths. Again and again he calls the Zichron Yaakov policemen's actions negligent, reckless, unprofessional, indiscretionary and careless.
The fatal incident in question occurred on August 23, 2017, and began when, at around 10:00 A.M., Sergei Hanukheev, 31, open-faced and armed with a kitchen knife, robbed the Discount Bank branch, located about three hundred meters from the home of his parents, with whom he lived. A few minutes later, at around 10:09 A.M., the incident came to a tragic end – his needless death in the yard of the house to which he had returned by walking. Hanukheev died as a result of the police who were called and lost control, although they found him calm, rolling a cigarette on the balcony. The evidence and testimonies presented indicate that his last moments were difficult and painful. He coughed and had difficulty breathing when one of the bullets penetrated his lungs, underwent initial treatment in the field by MDA paramedics, and later attempted resuscitation that lasted for many hours on the way and in the hospital, during which he died and died only the next day.
Sergei Hanukheev, "a young man before whom a considerable life expectancy was cut short abruptly" (Photo: courtesy of the family)
This was the tragic end of the mentally ill Sergei Hanukheev, who actually grew up as a sociable child and a good student. He graduated from school and enlisted in a combat unit, and after a few months went on to serve as a cook. After his release, he worked odd jobs, and even went to the United States and worked there as well. He had some unrequited love, and in the three and a half years preceding the incident he had locked himself in his home, his mental state worsened and he stopped communicating with people other than his family. In February 2017, he was diagnosed by a psychiatrist with schizophrenia and determined to be mentally disabled.
The police officers who arrived at the scene had no idea of Hanukheev's mental state, even though about six months earlier, a social worker in the social services department of the Zichron Yaakov local council had faxed him to the police station. "This material information, which was transferred to the local police station, was not filed or updated in a way that would be available or available to the police officers at the station in real time," the judge ruled, "The testimonies presented indicate that the officers did not stop at all to examine this issue of the identity of the residents of the house and their background, even though they had the opportunity to do so."
Hanukheev's mother claimed that same day: "They murdered my child," and her partner Yossi said that "the police acted here in an unprofessional and illegal way."
The scene of the incident, Hanukheev's home (Photo: Yoav Etiel)
Giora Ibn Tzur (Photo: courtesy of those photographed)
"A young man with a substantial life expectancy was abruptly cut short due to the negligent conduct of the police officers involved in the incident, who did not act as skilled and professional police officers are supposed to act to make an arrest that should not end in the death of the suspect," the judge ruled, although the police's claim that Hanukheev went out to the officers with a knife was not hidden. "Skilled police officers are required to act to freeze the situation, wait for the arrival of additional police forces, including senior command, receive information and prepare for conducting negotiations in an attempt to bring an end to the incident without the need for a head-on confrontation with the suspect," he said. Instead, they acted quickly to immediately arrest the suspect."
Attorneys Evyatar Katzir and Giora Ibn Tzur, who represented the family, argued that "without being able to separate from the gross negligence of the police's conduct in the incident, the versions of the policemen involved turned out to be 'cooked' and false, full of many lies about how the incident occurred."
After the incident, the officers removed journalists and photographers from the scene, while an officer briefed them on what allegedly happened. The officers even kept the family away from the house until the afternoon, combing the yard and collecting backpacks. The next day, when Hanukheev's death was announced, a police spokesman said that "the officers were attacked by a man armed with a knife, felt threatened, warned him before and shot him in the lower body." He said they "acted as expected."
The scene of the shooting of Sergei Hanukheev, a mentally wounded man who was shot dead by the police (Photo: Yoav Etiel)
In court, too, the police claimed that their officers acted with restraint, in accordance with the open-fire regulations. According to the police, only two officers fired at the deceased and each fired only one bullet, from a distance of about half a meter, in front and lower body. Despite the briefings, however, the officers contradicted each other and the judge found otherwise: "It was proven that the deceased was shot from three to five separate bullets, most of the bullets hit the upper body, one in the lower body, and certainly not from a distance of half a meter." In addition, he rejected the police's claim that the officers acted in self-defense, stating that "the fact that most of the shots that hit the deceased were carried out at long and medium range and in the upper body is inconsistent with the careful or professional conduct of the officers who shot the deceased, and does not amount to proportionate conduct." The judge also ruled that the police's claim that Hanukheev was shot in the front "has been proven to be a false version, which does not correspond to the facts."
Sergeant Major Itzik Mizrahi, one of the five policemen present at the scene, testified that he shouted and warned the deceased three times: "I am shooting." Sergeant Gil Simon claimed he shouted, "Stop or I'll shoot." However, the three other officers who did not take part in the shooting, including Superintendent Ilan Uliel, who commanded the incident, testified that they did not hear Mizrahi and Simon warn at all.
The judge also rejected Mizrahi's claim that he was "surprised" and had to draw his weapon and shoot only when Hanukheev approached them. The ruling stated that "the fact that the weapons were drawn even before the deceased left the house with a knife is consistent with the entire factual fabric that expresses negligent conduct." He added that they acted without reporting in real time to the senior command at the Zichron Yaakov police station about the exceptional events that occurred from the time they arrived at the house until the tragic end of the incident. Thus, it turned out that the Mizrahi policeman's walkie-talkie remained in the car at all, contradicting the claim of Detective Avraham Kalvin.
Hanukheev, archive (photo: courtesy of the family)
Evyatar Katzir (Photo: courtesy of those photographed)
"Under these circumstances, in light of the contradictions, the gaps in the policemen's testimonies that were found to be untrue, I did not find credibility in the policemen's version," the judge wrote in the ruling, wondering where the senior command at the police station was at the time of the incident: "Absentee not only at the time of the incident but also during the testimonies heard in the proceeding."
Strangely and inexplicably, the guns and magazines of the police officers involved in the incident, and bullets and shell casings found at the scene, were not transferred to the forensic lab for examination, in order to attribute each shooting to a specific officer. Also, the pepper spray container was not tested to ascertain whether it was used.
Brigadier General (retired) Benny Avliya, who testified at the trial on behalf of the police, said that after the incident, the head of the Northern Police Department ordered testimony from the officers involved, and that "as long as there is no indication of an offense, there is no reason to transfer the material to the DIP." According to his testimony, it was decided accordingly that it would be preferable for the policemen's testimony to be collected by a neutral investigator from the Fraud Unit of the Coast District. In the end, however, the testimonies were taken by a policeman from the Zichron Yaakov station. For he said: "A coastal investigator could not have been free to deal with this incident." A week after Hanukheev's mother complained to the DIP, she was notified that the case had been closed.
Subsequently, the judge noted the obvious: "The taking of the testimony of the police officers by a fellow policeman at the police station where they serve casts doubt on the very neutrality and propriety of the process, even if only on the surface, of the investigation process of an exceptional incident in which lives were lost."
Obituary of Sergei Hanukheev, a mentally ill man who was shot dead by the police (Photo: courtesy of the family)
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In conclusion, he stated in his decision: "The serious injury and death of the deceased was caused as a result of the negligent conduct of the police officers in the incident." In addition, the judge awarded compensation to Hanukheev's survivors in the amount of 797,776 and additional court costs and attorney's fees. In total, the Israel Police will have to pay about one million shekels for the conduct of its officers in the incident. The police, for their part, said they would appeal the verdict.
Attorney Evyatar Katzir said: "Instead of looking straight and admitting professional mistakes that led to such an unnecessary loss of life, the police officers involved came to the court and presented us with a show of falsehoods and a cover-up that is all delusion and evasion of responsibility. The ruling, which exposed the police's negligence in handling the incident at all stages, is a resounding and courageous message on the way to eradicating the "culture of lies that harms the core of relations and trust between citizens and the Israel Police."
The police said in response: "With all due respect, this is a fundamentally erroneous ruling, based on legal and factual errors and on ignoring substantive evidence that supports the policemen's position. Police were called in pursuit of a suspect who robbed a bank branch at knifepoint and then entered a residence on a nearby street. Officers called on the robber to turn himself in, but in response he attacked them with a knife, went back into the residence, and minutes later, when the officers demanded that he come out and strove for contact to enter the house, he came out and ran towards them, holding a knife drawn. Just before stabbing one of the policemen, who was in real mortal danger, he was shot and neutralized at point-blank range, thus preventing harm to the policeman and others involved. In light of all this, the police dispute the ruling and in recent days an appeal and a request to delay execution has been filed with the District Court."
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