Cop Who Killed Thief is Free

Shachar Mizrachi shot dead a car thief who, he said, tried to run him over in 2006. His sentence was shortened because of jail overcrowding.

Gil Ronen ,

Shachar Mizrachi
Shachar Mizrachi
Israel news photo: Flash 90


Shachar Mizrachi, a policeman who shot dead an Arab car thief in 2006, is free after serving 19 months in jail.

Mizrachi's case attracted nationwide attention, with many prominent supporters calling for his early release and claiming he acted as he should have in shooting the thief.

He was initially sentenced to 15 months in jail for shooting and killing 24-year-old Mahmoud Ghanaim, who had been caught trying to steal a car in Pardes Hana. According to Mizrachi, Ghanaim attempted to run him down during the arrest operation, wounding him lightly. The judge ruled that the shooting was not carried out in self defense, however. 

Mizrachi appealed the sentence but the Supreme Court, in a panel that included just-retired Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and newly-sworn-in President Asher Grunis, rejected the appeal and doubled the sentence to 30 months in 2010. The judges found that Mizrachi could have fired at the thief's legs or at the car's tires in order to stop the car and did not have the right to fire at his head.

This decision angered many, especially past and present policemen who said that it is impossible for judges to sit peacefully in a courtroom and tell someone who felt that his life was in immediate danger that he should have had the presence of mind in a split second to aim to wound, not to kill . Internal Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovich and Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen openly stated that they planned to seek a presidential pardon for Mizrachi.

Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman signed off on the pardon request but President Shimon Peres did not add his signature.

The Prison Releases Committee took a third off of Mizrachi's sentence and he was scheduled to go free next month. However, he went home early as part of an official decision to free 600 prisoners due to prison overcrowding.