Hawaii News Now has learned that the FBI is looking into the case of a 35-year-old Kaneohe man who died after he was arrested by police.
Initial medical exams show that Stephen Dinnan suffered a broken neck bone and severe injuries to his chest that caused him to stop breathing.
The FBI probe is preliminary but legal experts say the federal government's involvement is rare in Hawaii.
"They only typically would exercise it if they have doubts and well-supported doubts that the local authorities will handle the case properly," said Eric Seitz, an attorney who has handled a number of police misconduct lawsuits but is not involved in this case.
HPD is conducting its own internal investigation and the Honolulu Medical Examiner's office is likely to rule that the death was a homicide.
Police say they were called to a Waimanalo to locate a stolen car truck. An officer, accompanied by the owner of the truck, wound up in scuffle with Dinnan who collapsed into a coma and died the next day.
The arresting officer -- a 26-year veteran -- was initially placed on administrative leave but Hawaii News Now has learned that the officer recently returned to duty.
The FBI's interest comes after the attorney for Dinnan's girlfriend, Myles Breiner, asked the federal government to intervene, saying police are unable to conduct an unbiased investigation.
According to Seitz, the FBI only get involved if there's a pattern of misconduct.
He says the FBI has only conducted a handful of these types of investigations in Hawaii in the past several decades. But on the mainland, there have been a number of high-profile cases, including the investigation into the Rodney King beatings, which triggered the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
"The fact that they are expressing an interest is important in the sense that maybe it will drive the state to do a competent job," he said.
The HPD internal investigation is not expected to be completed until the autopsy is done. That's expected to happen in four to six weeks.
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