Musician's suit alleges police brutality - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Musician's suit alleges police brutality

Johnny Helm Johnny Helm

A three-time Na Hoku Award nominee is suing eight Honolulu police officers over a brutal beating more than a year ago.

Performing artist Johnny Helm, 40, said he was hiking with a friend on the Wilhelmina Rise trail in February 2012 when several officers with HPD's crime reduction unit mistook them for armed theft suspects, slammed them to the ground and assaulted them.

"I got this slice right here. I had to have stitches here and here," said Helm, as he pointed to a photo of injuries of his face.

"And they had to insert a rod into my head from the top and pop the bones back out."

Helm's attorney Myles Breiner said the Honolulu Police Commission ruled nearly a year ago that excessive force was used by two of the officers and that all of them were cited for conduct unbecoming of an officer. But so far, the prosecutor office has taken no action on the case.

Named in the lawsuit are officers Calvin Domingo, Keoki Duarte, Ross Furuhashi, Christopher Goshi, Tyler Maalo, Randall Rivera, Nalei Sooto and Patrick Sung. Sooto and Sung were cited for the use of excessive force by the commission, the lawsuit said.

All of the officers remain on duty, Breiner said.

"We filed the lawsuit because we could not get the prosecutor or the state of Hawaii to move forward in prosecuting the officers for violating Mr. Helm's rights," Breiner said.

"The officers are still carrying guns and badges."

Honolulu police declined comment.

According to Breiner, Helm has no criminal record and no history of violence. He said the musician suffered a concussion, a facial fracture and a split eye lid. 

Helm said the emotional toll has been just as severe.

"I couldn't go out of my house for a month and a half. Pretty much, I carried a bat around me. That's not me," he said.

"Before this happened, I was a non worrying person on stage and (now) I am constantly, constantly looking for people that were involved in this while I'm playing, every gig, every gig I'm looking for them."

The lawsuit says that officers told them that witnesses positively identified Helm and his boyhood friend, Jonah Wellins, who was visiting the islands from Connecticut, as the robbery suspects.

However, witnesses had actually described the theft suspect as a lone man with a dark complexion, Breiner said. Both Helm and Wellins are Caucasian.

According to the lawsuit, one officer -- Sooto -- tried to coerce Helm and Wellins into saying that their injuries were caused by falling off of the trail.

"It's just weird. This whole thing is weird," said Helm.

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