Ex-cop files disability discrimination suit against Maui Police Dept.

(image: Kelly Pauole)
(image: Kelly Pauole)
(image: Kelly Pauole)
(image: Kelly Pauole)
(image: Kelly Pauole)
(image: Kelly Pauole)

WAILUKU, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Maui Police Department is facing another lawsuit. This time filed by a 21-year-veteran of the force diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Kelly Pauole and his lawyers say the department has no psychologists to help police with mental health issues and has a pattern of retaliation, forcing officers to keep their problems secret.

"The thing about the shootings here…there's no real integration to get you comfortable carrying your gun. You just put back out there," Pauole said.

Pauole joined the Maui Police Department in 1996 after coming back from deployment in the Gulf War. His mental health declined after he killed a man he believes deserved to live.

That day was back on November 28th, 2006. Officers respond to a home in Lahaina after a woman called 911 saying her father was threatening to kill her mom with a machete.

"She hears her father say he will shoot the cops when they respond," said then-Lt. Donald Kanemitsu at a press conference back in 2006.

Officers claim Romero Butihi, 54, also had a nail gun, a spear gun and what appeared to be a rifle. They said police warned him multiple times to drop his weapons but he refused.

"One of the officers from here fired through this screen. Slight pause between both shots," said then-Lt. Glenn Cuomo at the press conference.

That officer is Kelly Pauole. For the first time, he is speaking publicly about the incident and the lawsuit he filed.

"I took the first shot, was point blank range. And then he staggered but he kept going, he kept dragging himself through the door, and so I had to shoot him again," said Pauole.

Pauole, a Gulf War Veteran, said if all the officers on scene that day were issued tasers, they could have taken Butihi alive.

"He should have been tased and not killed," he said.

Pauole said he was put on administrative leave for only a few months before a doctor cleared him to go back to duty, but he wasn't ready.

"He said, 'What's your greatest fear?' I said, 'My greatest fear is going back to work and having to kill somebody else,'" he said. "When I went back on the road, I kind of was scared of getting shot."

Pauole said he was later diagnosed with PTSD by another doctor and asked his superiors to be put on light duty.

"I said, 'If you don't pull me off the road, I might end up hurting myself or hurting others,'" Pauole said.

Instead, Pauole said the department demoted him and took away his badge and gun.

MPD released this statement about the lawsuit:

"The Maui Police Department continuously hires and supports all veterans. Many employees currently working within the Department are military veterans or active members."

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