EXCLUSIVE: Ala Moana Center accused of cover-up, neglecting to call 911 in death case

EXCLUSIVE: Ala Moana Center accused of cover-up, neglecting to call 911 in death case

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A wrongful death lawsuit against Ala Moana Center charged its security guards never called 911 for paramedics after a drunken man may have been assaulted by a bouncer and then fell and hit his head outside a popular bar. The lawsuit also claimed Ala Moana tried to cover up the incident and destroyed key evidence.

Surveillance video showed the man after he was injured outside the bar at Ala Moana nearly four years ago. Even though he was unconscious for almost an hour, he vomited and had blood coming from his nose, security there never called paramedics.

The video showed Jacob Palelei, 29, walking away from Mai Tai Bar with a pitcher of beer just after 1 a.m. on November 15, 2011.  The man can be seen putting the pitcher of beer down and then holding his hands up as a bouncer approached him.

The camera pans away for just a minute and the next image shows Palelei lying on the ground with a Mai Tai bouncer standing over him, a bouncer a security guard testified punched Palelei.

According to the lawsuit filed by his family, a security second camera had a clear view of the entire scene but Ala Moana security managers allowed that video to be destroyed.

Palelei, who was engaged to marry the mother of his then five-year-old daughter, died a few days later of what the medical examiner said were severe head and brain injuries he suffered by hitting his head in a fall.

"It was just heartbreaking but at the same time, everybody was pretty much in shock," said his cousin and calabash sister Miriama Neemia.

The security video showed another Mai Tai bouncer, Jacob Palelei's friend, propping up his limp body and then lifting his arms over his head at 1:07 a.m, four minutes after he first appeared on the ground. He then lifted him onto a bench at about 1:09 a.m.

A security guard showed up 1:15 a.m. and looked at him from several feet away and departed.  A security dispatcher testified that he wanted to call 911 for paramedics but was instructed not to by a supervisor.

"Call 911 and my brother would have still been alive.  He would have still been alive.  But instead they didn't do that, so therefore, we lost our brother," Neemia said.

At 1:26 a.m., twenty minutes after he was first visible lying on the ground with the bouncer standing above him, Palelei fell off the bench and the video showed him motionless on the ground for at least ten minutes.

At about 1:50 a.m., another bouncer tried to wake him up and then poured water from a pitcher on him.

Then nearly one hour after he first passed out or was assaulted, his friend helped him to his feet and took him home at approximately 1:57 a.m.

The lawsuit said his friend – one of the Mai Tai Bar bouncers -- drove him to his Makiki home and told his girlfriend he was drunk but did not tell him he may have been assaulted, that he fell and may have injured his head, vomited and had blood coming out of his nose, the lawsuit said.  His girlfriend put him to bed and he never awoke again, the suit said.  When she returned from work the next afternoon, she called 911 and he was taken to Kuakini Hospital where he was admitted to the intensive care unit and never regained consciousness.  He died a few days later, when his family chose to pull the plug on machines that were keeping him alive, Neemia said.

According to the lawsuit, security guards testified their notes on the incident were erased from Ala Moana's computer system and the security director first claimed the radio system -- which records all transmissions -- was broken that night, even though his officers said it was working fine.  Security guards had expressed concerns about his condition over the radios and a supervisor told a guard to examine him for injuries, but the guard never appeared to look closely at Palelei, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said the potential cover-up by Ala Moana Center, destruction of evidence and its "…attempt to sweep everything under the rug is outrageous."  The suit claimed security crews may have not called police or paramedics because they were trying to protect the bouncer suspected of beating Palelei up.  The security guard shown standing and watching the scene who never tried to speak to Palelei and did not examine him closely for injuries admitted he patronized the Mai Tai Bar when he was off-duty.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys Vladimir Devens, Kurt Kagawa and Keani Alapa on behalf of Palelei's family, also names Bubba Gump Shrimp Company Restaurants, the parent company of the Mai Tai Bar.

"They weren't doing their job.  That's your job.  Your job is to make sure that anybody who is hurt, sick on your property, you're supposed to take care of them," said Neemia, who once worked as a security guard.

Security guards who testified in depositions said they were "sickened" by the incident, upset that no one had called police and ambulance crews and one dispatcher was moved to tears during her testimony.

The Ala Moana Center security director didn't submit a report about the incident until nearly a year later. He testified he generated the report only because lawyers subpoenaed the surveillance video.

Through a spokeswoman, Ala Moana Center declined comment. Trial in the case is set for March.

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