Tort suit on behalf of Roman Litrovnik
Roman Litrovnik is the only son of Bella and Boris Litrovnikov who were shot and killed by his cousin, a security guard, in 2008. The shooter also shot and killed Roman’s grandmother, Bella’s mother, Ginda Dvoikin. The three shootings, carried out in her home, were performed with the handgun issued to Litrovnik’s cousin by his employers. This firearm was stored in his home when he was off duty. The court subsequently declared the shooter mentally incompetent to stand trial and committed him to a secure psychiatric unit, where he remains to date.
Towards the end of 2014, two partner organizations in the Gun Free Kitchen Tables Coalition jointly prepared and submitted a tort suit on Litrovnik’s behalf, against the private security company, Reshef Security, and the state of Israel. The suit was filed by Atty. Vardit Avidan of Tmura and by Attys. Smadar Ben Natan and Galit Lubetzky, staff members of GFKT.
On November 30 2017, the District Court approved as a court ruling a settlement between Roman Litrovnik, the state and Reshef Security, who were sued for damages due to failure to meet their obligation under the law to exercise oversight over the firearm issued to the guard. Both institutions were called to account for the functional failure that contributed directly to the murders. They were compelled to pay Litrovnik significant sums in damages. The ruling emphasized the duty of the state and of armed organizations to prevent the abuse of firearms issued to their personnel and to protect innocent lives.
In January 2018, a Channel 10 television item reported on the court ruling in detail on prime-time Friday evening news, spotlighting the risks posed by firearms carried by off-duty personnel and the state’s responsibility to prevent these risks. As anchor, Ayala Hasson, said: “The legal precedent set by awarding Roman [Litrovnik] hundreds of thousands of Shekels in damages to be paid by the state and the security firm, won’t bring back his parents and his grandmother … but security firms will be more careful, more selective and stricter. They’ll stop fudging.” GFKT can only hope that this is the case.
These are the words of Roman Litrovnik:
My life stopped in a flash one Friday at midday, on the eve of the second Pesach celebration (Little Passover), when I was notified by the police that my parents and my grandmother, who were all the family I had, were murdered by a relative employed as a security guard. He had lost his mind and emptied two handgun magazines into the bodies of my loved ones to ensure their deaths.
I have no way to describe the mental, emotional and physical pain I experienced at that moment and for a very long time after. The brain is incapable of coping with this terrible news, it’s the end of life, sudden and unexpected, premature, with no path ahead…
My parents and my grandmother lost their lives due to the negligence of the state and the private security company. The state didn’t bother to enforce a law that it had enacted and the security company didn’t bother to follow the law prohibiting them from sending their off-duty firearms to guards’ homes and requiring that these be deposited at guards’ worksites at the end of work shifts.
I was faced with two options: to continue my free-fall into the abyss of pain and hatred or to hold fast to life and to love for my wife and my two year old daughter, who were all I had left in this world. My choice was life…
Two years of internal struggle, seeking existential answers, persuading myself day by day to rehabilitate myself finally led me to a place of strength and to an ability to think about justice, along with a powerful wish to prevent future incidents of this kind. Given what had befallen us, my wife and I could no longer ignore other murders to which the media exposed us every few months. We understood that this was a phenomenon. That it would take a real battle to achieve change.
We were still deliberating, thinking this through, when I received the fateful phone call from the Tmura Center and the smoking Gun Free Kitchen Tables Coalition asking whether I would join their struggle against this phenomenon and agree to file a lawsuit against the Ministry of Public Security and the private security company. We agreed to their proposal, of course, and set out on an extremely challenging four-year process. It was prolonged and emotionally exhausting, a process juxtaposing the pain and the feelings that were still raw with a dry and emotionless legal system. Nonetheless, these four years filled us with hope that we would be able to change reality and reduce the number of preventable, future killings, creating a precedent in which the government ministry and the private security firm would take responsibility for our tragedy and take practical measures to implement the law.
Alongside the legal battle, Tmura and GFKT took advantage of every possible forum to raise awareness to this danger. Together, we spoke before Knesset committees in an attempt to stop Minister Gilad Erdan’s sweeping authorization to bear the arms of security guards at all times, in the context of the “Intifada of Knives.”
At the end of four difficult years and after conceding a large part of the sum we sued for, we succeeded, together, in creating a legal precedent that should open the way for all the families of victims killed in these circumstances to obtain restitution through legal means that were formerly nonexistent. We succeeded in warning the private security firms and in bringing the state closer to the real and efficient enforcement of the law it enacted.
For my wife and for me this represents the victory of life; a family tale of tragedy, a journey of survival and a struggle for life and justice that will stay with my family for generations.
And what could be of more consolation after such a loss than the knowledge that we have succeeded in transforming our personal tragedy into a chance to prevent the tragedies of other families.
Tort suit on behalf of Alamnesh Zalaka
At the end of 2011, Alamnesh Zalaka survived a murder attempt that her then partner, Avi Radai, carried out with the gun issued him by an employing security company, with which he shot and severely injured her in front of their daughter, a toddler. At the beginning of 2013 Zalaka filed a tort suit against the Ben Bitachon private security company and the state of Israel. The suit was filed by Atty. Dikla Tutian of the Noga Center, a partner organization in the GFKT Coalition, and by Attys. Smadar Ben Natan and Galit Lubetzky, staff members of GFKT.
An investigative article, published in Maariv, in March 2013, included an in-depth interview with Zalaka, detailing the “gun play” with which her partner had threatened and intimidated her long before the murder attempt. The description reveals the day to day reality of a woman living under a constant threat to her life in the form of an accessible, lethal firearm. Such realities exist in many homes even where no murders or murder attempts are carried out. The destructive implications – especially for women – of holding firearms in the home are far-reaching and powerful beyond their manifestation in actual murders. The means to prevent the constant threats, murders and attempted murders carried out with off-duty company or organizational firearms in homes are relatively simple – storing these firearms at worksites. Israeli law recognized the imperative to do so, at least regarding the arms of private security companies, as early as 2008. However, beyond than a brief period of enforcement, this law remains unenforced to this day. At the beginning of 2019, six years after the suit was filed, a settlement was approved by the court. Zalaka was awarded significant damages a third of which was paid by the state and two thirds were paid by the security company. This was the second case in which the state of Israel and a private security firm were held to account and made to pay damages for their negligence in enforcing the law barring security guards from bearing their firearms after duty.