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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Family Says Cops Beat a Man to Death

HONOLULU (CN) - Hawaii police officers beat and Tasered a man to death, eyewitnesses called it murder, and the city medical examiner called it a homicide, the man's family claims in court.

Randall Hatori, 39, was a passenger in a car driven by Earnest Ricky Alvarez in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in the early morning hours of Feb. 4, 2014 when they were pulled over by unidentified officers with the Hawaii Police Department, according to the Jan. 21 federal lawsuit.

A struggle ensued when an officer tried to "forcibly remove" Hatori from the car. He broke free and ran across the road to a Tesoro convenience store, where officers caught up with him.

"The Taser deployed by the Doe officer struck decedent ... multiple times in the torso, arms and legs, knocking him to the ground and incapacitating him," according to the complaint. "Thereafter, multiple other Doe police officers responded to the location where decedent Hatori was on the ground and began beating [him] with their hands, feet and police equipment, even though he presented no threat or risk of harm to them."

Another officer pulled up in his vehicle, jumped out and kicked Hatori as he lay face-down on the ground, his family says.

"After Hatori became unresponsive, Doe police officers knowingly and intentionally delayed seeking and obtaining medical assistance for decedent," the complaint states. "While [he] was in distress and dying, emergency medical personnel were summoned to treat superficial injuries of one Doe officer. After a lengthy and unreasonable delay in responding to decedent Hatori's deteriorating condition, emergency medical personnel were finally summoned to respond, and they found him to be unresponsive while still on the ground, handcuffed."

It was about an hour after officers quit their assault on Hatori that he was finally taken to Kona Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:53 a.m.

"An autopsy performed by the medical examiner classified decedent Hatori's death as a homicide," according to the complaint. "One eyewitness described the beating ... as a 'murder.'"

The Hawaii Tribune Herald reported in April 2014 that the autopsy report listed "cardio-respiratory arrest due to the combined effects of high levels of methamphetamine in his blood, an enlarged heart and a physical struggle" as contributing to his death.

The family says police did not have a right to pull Hatori and Alvarez over in the first place.

"Based on prior contacts with law enforcement, decedent ... was known to officers of the Hawaii Police Department," the complaint states. "Officers ... recognized both Mr. Alvarez and decedent Hatori ... and solely based on those identifications, purposely made a decision to conduct a car stop."

Hatori's family says he did not pose a threat to police officers, despite the struggle when the unidentified officer tried to remove him from the car, and that the use of deadly force to detain him was unjustifiable.

"Doe police officers' actions in Tasing and beating decedent Hatori constituted an unreasonable use of force because they lacked probable cause to arrest [him], he was not posing any threat to [the officers], or other person or persons in the vicinity of the incident," the complaint states.

It adds: "After Tasing and beating [him], Doe police officers applied their full body weight onto the back of ... Hatori with their knees while he was face down on the asphalt parking lot. [He] was not resisting while in this face down position."

Attorneys for plaintiffs Michael Green and Glenn Uesugi did could not be reached for comment Monday.

Hawaii Police Department assistant chief of administration Marshall Kanehailua did not immediately return a phone call.

Hatori's daughter Kanoelani K. Hatori-Neuchterlein, and the mother of his minor son "R.H.J.," Shauna Fergerstrom, seek punitive damages from Hawaii County and the Doe officers, for wrongful death, municipal liability, assault and battery, negligence, false imprisonment, unjustified use of deadly force and due process violations.

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