Deputy sheriffs, COs using guns and ammo that violate state policy

Updated: Apr. 23, 2019 at 11:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Public Safety is issuing handguns and ammunition that violate their own policy, Hawaii News Now has learned.

The unapproved weapons have been used recently in fatal shootings.

The department provides all corrections officers who qualify with 9mm, semi-automatic handguns, but the 2010 policy mandates the older, Smith and Wesson .38 revolvers.

On March 1, a corrections officer from the Oahu Community Correctional Center shot and killed 47-year old Maurice Arrisgado, Jr. after Arrisgado escaped through a door that same corrections officer accidentally left ajar.

Attorney Eric Seitz represents the Arrisgado family, “They don’t follow the policies, they don’t follow the rules and people get hurt and killed.”

In a separate incident on February 18, a sheriff’s deputy shot and killed Delmar Espejo at the state capitol. The bullet fired, a 9mm, 124 grain, also violates policy.

That’s because the policy, which went into effect in 1995, only allows 147 grain ammo.

FBI ballistics tests show, the 124 grain, has a faster expansion and higher muzzle velocity, in other words, it travels faster and some argue, can cause more damage than the 147 grain bullet that is approved by the state.

Receipts we’ve obtained show taxpayers have been purchasing the wrong ammunition for years.

While both bullets are deadly, Seitz says, to a grieving family, even the slightest difference matters. He says the requirements are in place for a reason and should either be followed or changed.

“It’s horrible for the public to realize that we have an agency of government (that) does those kinds of things and doesn’t even follow the minimal protections that are in place.”

Recent Hawaii News Now stories show the Department of Public Safety is struggling with conforming to its own firearms and training policies, even though none is new.

Our investigation earlier this months shows, taxpayers purchased $80,000 worth of Sig Sauer rifles that are just sitting in lockers because they also are not allowed.

And dozens of less lethal Remington shotguns and pepper ball guns are being kept in the Training armory. Renee Sonobe-Hong, the Deputy Director of Law Enforcement told Hawaii News Now, those are for training purposes only.

Her statement upset the union representing the sheriff’s deputies because requests for the weapons in the field have been denied.

HNN asked the Department of Public Safety for more information on why the guns and ammunition are being provided if they violate policy, and if the department plans on changing the policy, we did not get a response.

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