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Police exonerate Israeli officer who shot canister that hit U.S. activist’s eye

28 November 2010 | Haaretz, Chaim Levinson

Emily Henochowicz being rushed away for treatment after she was hit in the eye with a tear gas canister during a demonstration in May.

Art student Emily Henochowicz was seriously injured during a protest against the IDF’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in late May.

The Judea and Samaria district police found no criminal wrongdoing in the actions of the Border Police soldiers who left an American art student without an eye after getting hit in the face with a tear gas canister at a protest in Qalandiyah six months ago.

The incident took place on May 31, when Emily Henochowicz, a student at Cooper Union College in New York, took part in a small protest against the Israel Defense Forces raid on the Turkish flotilla to Gaza that morning.

Video footage of the incident shows Henochowicz, who carried a Turkish flag, injured from a tear gas grenade. She lost one of her eyes, and suffered several other fractures. Henochowicz has since returned to the United States to complete her studies.

Following the incident, Henochowicz’s family filed a complaint to the Judea and Samaria district police which is responsible for investigating the operational activity of the Border Police in the West Bank. The family argued the policeman shot the canister directly at the student, against regulations.

Henochowicz submitted her testimony, as did the Border Police batallion commander, company commander and the officer who fired the canister. The Border Police officers claimed the gas canister only hit Henochowicz after it ricocheted off a barricade. The police investigators claimed this version of events is backed by video footage of the incident. The police case has been transferred to the central district attorney to decide whether charges will be filed.

Attorney Michael Sfard, representing the Henochowicz family, slammed the police investigation, dubbing the Judea and Samaria police “a sewage treatment plant for the Border Police.” He said the investigation was negligent, pointing out that investigators did not bother to speak to Haaretz reporter Avi Issacharoff and photographer Daniel Bar-On, who were present at the scene and captured the incident in print and photos.

“Every investigation of killing or injuries ends up emitting this stench of blamelessness,” Sfard said. “This particular case shows that the negligence borders whitewash. Anyone who finds no need to question objective witnesses, who have stated the Border Police officer took direct aim, is obstructing the investigation and is as good as confessing to having no interest in finding the truth.”

When reached for comment, police would only say the case was now with the district attorney’s office.