A Kailua-Kona man died in police custody early Tuesday morning, less than an hour and a half after he was arrested in Kailua-Kona.
Police identified him as 39-year-old Randall Makaalu Hatori, who was wanted on suspicion of assault and violating temporary restraining orders.
According to police, the incident occurred after a Kona patrol officer made a traffic stop at 12:30 a.m. at a gas station on Palani Road. An address on a police log matches that of the Tesoro station at Kona Coast Shopping Center.
The driver of the car that was stopped, 38-year-old Ernest Ricky Alvarez of Kailua-Kona, was arrested and charged on a $10,000 bench warrant for contempt of court, and was also arrested on suspicion of third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug.
Hatori, who police say was a passenger in the vehicle driven by Alvarez, allegedly ran, and an officer pursued him.
Police say a struggle ensued during the arrest, and Hatori reportedly “went unresponsive,” according to Capt. Chad Basque, commander of the Kona Criminal Investigation Division.
Basque said he had “no idea” if Hatori had been placed in a choke hold by an officer. He said he believed Hatori was unarmed.
“I haven’t reviewed any of the reports that came over from the patrol side yet with those specifics,” he said. “The autopsy’s gonna be, I believe, scheduled for (today). Then we’ll get the full report on that.”
Fire Department personnel were summoned and took Hatori to Kona Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:53. a.m. The officer, who Basque described as a newer officer, sustained minor injuries, which Basque described as some minor lacerations. The officer was treated and released at the Kona hospital and returned to duty, Basque said. Police did not identify the officer. Basque said the arresting officer did have backup with him.
“When it happened, I don’t know how many officers were there, but there were at least he and one other on the scene,” he said. “And as time goes by, more people show up. I don’t know how many were there when he finally went unresponsive.”Basque said that Alvarez was taken without incident.
“From what I’ve heard, he was cooperative with us,” he said.
The booking log identifies the officer who arrested Alvarez as Christopher Jelsma. It is not known if Jelsma is also the officer who arrested Hatori, as Hatori died before being booked, and his arrest is not listed on the log.
According to court records, Hatori, who is listed as 5-foot-9 and 250 pounds, had eight convictions, four for felonies, including burglary, being a felon in possession of a firearm, third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and drug paraphernalia. He also had misdemeanor convictions for reckless endangering, domestic abuse, and contempt of court, and a petty misdemeanor conviction for harassment.
Police have initiated a corner’s inquest investigation in connection with Hatori’s death, and the autopsy will be part of that investigation.
The Kona Criminal Investigations Section will also investigate the death and the circumstances leading to it, and the Office of Professional Standards, which is the internal affairs unit, will conduct an administrative investigation. Police say those are standard procedures in any police-involved death.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.