The family of a man who died after being tased by a Hawaii Police Department officer intends to file a lawsuit against the department, their attorney said Thursday.
Randall Hatori, 39, died Feb. 4 at Kona Community Hospital, after running from police, who used a Taser on him. An autopsy report completed last week cited “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 factors in the Kailua-Kona man’s death.
What police didn’t say in their press release, attorney Michael Green said Thursday, is the pathologist who performed the autopsy ruled the manner of Hatori’s death a homicide. Homicide, by definition, does not carry a specific intention to cause death, but refers to death at the hands of another person, not necessarily murder.
Still, Green said, witnesses provided accounts of the police “beating” Hatori.
Hatori was “just a local guy, he had some problems with police over the years,” Green said. “Now he’s dead.”
Hatori’s family was not interested in being interviewed, Green said.
One of their concerns, Green said, is how police handled their attempt to arrest Hatori. Police said Hatori was wanted on outstanding warrants for assault and violating temporary restraining orders.
“This guy isn’t committing a violent crime,” Green said, describing the morning Hatori died. “He wasn’t armed.”
According to police reports, Hatori was the passenger of a vehicle being driven by a man wanted on a contempt of court warrant. Hatori ran from police from a gas station across Palani Road toward the Kailua-Kona Post Office. A struggle ensued during the arrest.
“Initially unable to restrain Hatori, the officer deployed his conducted electric weapon (commonly known as a ‘Taser’) in an attempt to subdue him,” the department’s April 15 press release said. “Hatori continued to actively resist arrest and the struggle continued. Other officers responded to the scene and assisted in restraining Hatori. After Hatori was placed in handcuffs, he became unresponsive.”
Hawaii County Police Chief Harry Kubojiri declined to comment Thursday morning on the allegations, citing the possibility of a lawsuit. Assistant Chief of Administration Marshall Kanehailua said the investigation into the incident remains ongoing, and he could not release a copy of the autopsy because of the investigation and because of concerns about medical privacy.
The state’s Office of Information Practices in 1991 ruled autopsy reports were not protected documents, but practice in Hawaii has been to release few of the reports, and those released are heavily redacted.
Green declined to release the family’s copy of the report.
Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth said his department will likely conduct its own investigation into the situation surrounding Hatori’s death, as well as review the police department’s investigation.
More than 500 people have died after being shocked with Tasers — either during an arrest or while in jail — in the United States since 2001, according to an Amnesty International Report issued in 2012. The organization, in a 2008 report, examined data on hundreds of deaths following Taser use, including autopsy reports in 98 cases and studies on the safety of such devices. Among the cases reviewed, 90 percent of those who died were unarmed, Amnesty officials said on their website.
Hatori was a landscaper and was survived by his mother, two children and several siblings.
Email Erin Miller at email@example.com.