Philly's Ethiopian community asking questions after they say one of their own shot by police

Cherri Gregg
March 07, 2019 - 6:14 pm
Members of Philadelphia's Ethiopian and Eritrean communities are asking questions after one of their own was shot by police on Wednesday night.

Courtesy of Saba Tedla

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Members of Philadelphia's Ethiopian and Eritrean communities are asking questions after one of their own was shot by police on Wednesday night. Police say the victim was wielding a knife, but his supporters believe there's more to the story.

"The information that is relayed on TV and early release from police is very disturbing to me," Saba Tedla told KYW Newsradio Thursday afternoon. She runs Bookers Restaurant at 49th Street and Baltimore Avenue and is guardian to Kelab Belay. 

She says she hired the family friend to work as a busboy at the restaurant last August after he moved to Philadelphia from Ethiopia to attend Temple University. She says the 25-year-old was quickly promoted to bookkeeper and payroll. So when she heard he was shot multiple times by police, she was shocked.

"He's very laid back, very introvert, super nerdy and very smart," she said, "so I don't know how he could be an aggressor."

Philadelphia Police say officers responded to a 911 call of a stabbing near the corner of 49th Street and Hazel Avenue just before 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Capt. Sekou Kinebrew says a man carrying a knife came out of a home on the block, approaching the officers.

"Both officers initially retreated while both giving him warnings to drop the knife. The male did not comply and continued to advance toward the officers," he said. 

READ: Family says it is seeking justice for man killed by police 

That's when a 27-year-old officer, a four-year veteran, allegedly shot the man multiple times.

"We searched the scene and the home in search of a stabbing victim. At this point, we have not found anyone that was stabbed," says Kinebrew. 

A kitchen knife was found at the scene. Police have not identified the victim, but Tedla says Belay is the man who was shot.

"How did he end up being shot by police, that's very puzzling," said Tedla, "and he had a knife, couldn't they have used a Taser? Why did they have to use such force, I can't imagine him being that much of a threat."

She says the Ethiopian community is already raising money to support Belay and has hired an independent investigator who is already at work.

"We want to shed some light on exactly what triggered this incident," said Tedla.

READ: 8 arrested in South, Northwest Philly gang-related shootings 

Police say the man who was shot is a person of interest. There is no word yet on whether he is under arrest.

Tedla says the Ethiopian community, Belay's friends and family will gather to come up with next steps.

"We have so many questions," she said. 

Tedla says Belay was a good student at Temple and had just secured a prestigious internship on the Main Line.