Honolulu police officers on trial for excessive force claims

Honolulu police officers on trial for excessive force claims
(Image: Courtesy)

HONOLULU (AP) - A trial is expected to resume for three Honolulu police officers accused of using excessive force on a man shot with a stun gun who later died.

The family of Sheldon Haleck is suing the officers in their individual capacities in a trial that began in federal court last week. Such cases rarely go to trial, but the city of Honolulu has chosen not to settle, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Haleck, 38, was walking through nighttime downtown Honolulu traffic in 2016. His family’s attorneys say Haleck, who was high on methamphetamine, wasn’t threatening anyone when officers pepper-sprayed him about a dozen times and shot him with a Taser gun as many as three times.

He became unresponsive about being cuffed and was rushed to an emergency room. He was pronounced dead the next morning.

They officers say they used reasonable force, which didn’t kill him.

Jurors heard from officers who said that by being in the middle of a major five-lane street, Haleck put himself and the officers in danger.

“The threat there was that there were vehicles in the area and we could be hit at any time,” Officer Christopher Chung said.

Chung said he sprayed him once with pepper spray, but it didn’t seem to have an effect on him. So he sprayed him two to three more times. Chung said he used his Taser twice, but the two probes didn’t seem to connect with Haleck’s skin.

Officer Samantha Critchlow said she pepper-sprayed Haleck four to five times, but she wasn’t sure the spray directly hit him. She called the level of force “very reasonable” given the circumstances.

“I went there to back up my officer, my fellow officer,” she said, choking up with tears. “Would have been simple like that - just get him out of the road. But it didn’t happen that way.”

Jurors also heard from the doctor who treated Haleck that night. Irminne Van Dyken said she removed two Taser darts from his back. She testified there were two puncture wounds on his chest, surrounded by bruising, which showed the darts may have hit him there as well.

She said she couldn’t be sure Haleck was shocked. “But you have to wonder why he went into cardiac arrest,” she said.

The trial is expected to continue this week.

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