Wapner Newman’s Simon T. Haileab Representing Kaleb Belay, Victim of Philadelphia Police Shooting

March 8, 2019

Twenty-five-year-old Temple University graduate student Kaleb Belay was shot six times by a Philadelphia police officer on Wednesday night, March 6. Belay was not carrying a gun; and though police were responding to a reported stabbing in the area, they found no stabbing victim.

The only victim that night was Kaleb Belay, who is in critical condition at the at Penn Presbyterian Hospital because of the gunshot wounds to his stomach, hands and feet.

Kaleb is originally from Ethiopia. He came to the United States about a year ago and earned a reputation as both a good person and a good student. He has been described by people who know him as “very quiet,” “very laid back,” “very smart,” and “a really nice guy…not a troublemaker or anything.”

Wapner Newman’s Simon T. Haileab was hired by the victim’s family.

“We want the entire city of Philadelphia to understand that this man is not a crazy, knife-wielding suspect, as what was suggested,” Haileab told reporters.

The police arrived near the corner of 49th Street and Hazel Avenue on Wednesday evening, telling Eyob Mekonnen, Kaleb’s roommate, that someone had called 911. The officers searched Kaleb’s house. When they saw Kaleb walking toward them outside, holding what they claimed was a “kitchen knife,” they opened fire. Officers alleged that Belay ignored the requests to drop the object.

CBS 3 Eyewitness news reported that upon his recovery Kaleb will be arrested for assault on an officer.  Hopefully, investigations by local police and independent investigators will reveal why this unnecessary shooting happened.

The Ethiopian and Eritrean communities in Philadelphia are understandably puzzled not only by the incident itself, but by how it was initially portrayed by the authorities. They see a disconnect between the reports of police and the hard-working, affable student they know.

“How did he end up being shot by police? That’s very puzzling,” Saba Tedla told KYW Newsradio the day after the shooting. “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.”

The Ethiopian community and Kaleb’s friends and family are rallying around Kaleb. The community has raised funds to support him and to hire an investigator to find out what happened.

It’s clear to those who know Belay that something doesn’t add up. The police owe Belay and his family answers, which is what motivated Haileab to get involved.

“He’s a young gentleman who is in grad school at Temple University who worked and really kept to himself,” Haileab said. “None of the facts that have been put out right now seem to fall in line with what we know about who he is as a person.”

Haileab served as an Assistant District Attorney for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office from 2015 to 2018 before joining Wapner Newman. Haileb is a member of several legal organizations and a volunteer for many local non-profits in Philadelphia, including the Eritrean Community Center of Philadelphia.

For more information about our firm or attorney Simon Haileb, please contact Wapner Newman by calling our office or filling out our online form.