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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Overkill in Honolulu

HONOLULU (CN) - Dozens of Honolulu and Hawaii police used a battering ram in a pointless attack on a house, armed with a bogus affidavit from a helicopter pilot who claimed that backyard bamboo was marijuana, homeowners claim in court.

Two families sued the City and County of Honolulu, the State of Hawaii, and seven named police officers, in First Circuit Court.

Plaintiffs Paul and Sandra Tam, and their next-door neighbors Paula Kinimaka and Brian Gonzaga say the defendants terrorized them and destroyed their property in a two-hour search that turned up nothing but bamboo plants.

It wasn't the first time, they say.

In 2011, "a state court specifically concluded that defendant [Officer Joseph] Hanawahine's claimed ability to observe marijuana plants with his naked eye from over 500 feet above the ground was not credible," the complaint states. But "defendants Hanawahine and the city continued to conduct such warrantless unconstitutional searches over residential areas."

But armed with a false affidavit from Hanawahine and a search warrant from a deputy attorney general, 30 armed officers stormed the plaintiffs' homes and damaged them during a two-hour search that found no marijuana plants, the plaintiffs say.

"Without announcing to plaintiffs who they were or what they were doing there, and prior to giving plaintiffs adequate time to respond, HPD officers, at the direction of defendant [Officer Thomas] Carreiro, immediately used the battering ram to break down the side door of the Tam residence and charged into the Tam residence," the complaint states.

The families say the officers found no evidence of crimes or wrongdoing, but destroyed their property and then gave one another high fives for doing it.

Co-defendant Officer Blake Davidson conducted the helicopter search of their property with Hanawahine without reasonable cause, the families say.

"Despite that defendants Davidson and Hanawahine claim that they observed marijuana on the premises twice from the helicopter and once from the ground, they could not determine which residence the alleged marijuana was growing behind," the complaint states.

It adds: "Despite the lack of evidence and/or circumstances justifying their actions, on or about November 2, 2012, at approximately 6:00 a.m., in full view of plaintiffs' neighbors and while blocking all access in and out of Waikalua Road, Honolulu Police Department officers executed the search warrant on the two residences located at 45-029 Waikalua Road by storming the premises with approximately 30 officers, many of them masked, wearing bulletproof vests, and armed with rifles, handguns, a battering ram, and shields. ...

"No marijuana plants were located at either of the residences. Instead, immediately behind the Kinimaka/Gonzaga residence, where Davidson and Hanawahine claimed to have observed marijuana plants, there was a cluster of bamboo plants."

For two hours, the families say, "Plaintiffs were not free to leave and were forced to watch while defendants invaded their home, tore apart their property and belongings, and searched nonexistent criminal evidence."

To cap it off, they say, "HPD officers maliciously, callously, and overzealously executing the search warrant were observed giving each other 'high-fives' and congratulating one another after leaving both residences."

The plaintiffs seek punitive damages for unlawful search and seizure, excessive force, negligence and trespass. They are represented by Megan Kau and Tracy Fukui.

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