Eyewitness: Caretaker Shouted ‘He’s Disabled’ Before Soldier Shot Autistic Palestinian

New eyewitness testimony in the shooting and killing of Eyad Hallaq, a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian man, in Jerusalem's Old City last Saturday, strengthens the suspicion that police shot him while he was lying on the ground, and after his counselor yelled that he was disabled.

The witness, A.R., a laborer, was in the garbage-bin space where Hallaq fled to get away from the police. According to his testimony, which was taken by B'Tselem investigator Amer Aruri on the day Hallaq was shot, A.R. was sitting in the garbage room ‒ a small, roofless structure used by sanitation workers on Sha'ar Ha'arayot Street.

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“I saw a young man running strangely, as if he didn’t know how to walk normally or was disabled. He came in my direction and fell on his back, only a few meters from me,” A.R. said. “A few border policemen ran after him and stopped a few meters from the young man, who was wearing a white shirt and black pants, and didn’t have anything in his hand. I heard the police officer ask the young man in Arabic, 'where’s the pistol?' But it was clear the young man didn’t know how to speak, because he wasn’t able to respond.”

At this point Warda Abu Hadid, a counselor from the Elwyn El Quds center for people with special needs that Hallaq attended, also ran into the garbage room. She said she had rushed there to hide after she heard the first shots.

“Meanwhile a woman wearing a kerchief came in and yelled at the policeman in Hebrew, ‘he’s disabled, he’s disabled,’ and then repeated the word ‘disabled’ in Arabic’” said A.R. “I froze on the spot and didn’t move I was so terrified. That’s the first time I’ve seen a chase like that. I was mainly looking at the young man, who was on the ground, trembling, and then I heard a few more shots. One of the policemen told me to get out of there and I fled.”

His testimony dovetails with that of Abu Hadid, who said she fled to the garbage room to hide after she heard the first shots. In her testimony to Aruri, she said that Hallaq was already wounded when he collapsed in a corner of the room. She said she yelled at the policemen, “He’s disabled, he’s disabled,” and Hallaq shouted, "I’m with her.’” She added that the policeman continued to yell at him, asking “where’s the rifle? Where’s the rifle?” before shooting him several times.

The version of events the police gave to the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers, known by its Hebrew acronym Mahash, was that they were summoned to  the site after another police unit saw Hallaq carrying what looked to them like a gun (according to family members it was a telephone). Two policemen said they heard on the radio, “a terrorist armed with a live weapon is en-route to the Lion's Gate.”