HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Department is now conducting a murder investigation into the shooting death of an Oahu Community Correctional Center inmate in March.
It’s the second murder investigation involving a shooting by a Department of Public Safety officer.
Maurice Arrisgado Jr. was shot in the back in front of St. Anthony’s Church in Kalihi after he escaped from OCCC. His family’s attorney said the shooting was not justified and that HPD is doing the right thing by conducting a murder investigation.
“It was a preventable death that should not have been allowed to unfold the way it did,” said Seitz.
“The first thing is, he was allowed to escape under circumstances where that just should not have occurred. The second thing is he was shot in the back running away.”
Prison officials declined comment on the HPD investigation. But in a news conference in March, Department of Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda said the shooting of an escaping prisoner is allowed under department rules.
“In the course of retaining or catching a fleeing or escaping inmate, the use of deadly force is authorized, yes," Espinda said.
When a reporter then asked him if it was okay to shoot an escapee in the back, Espinda added: "As needed to stop the inmate.”
The HPD referral comes on the heels of its decision to forward to prosecutors the case of Delmar Espejo. HPD classified that case as a second-degree murder.
The disabled, homeless man was shot and killed at the state Capitol in February by a sheriffs deputy after a struggle. An autopsy later revealed that he was shot in the back at close range.
Some lawmakers worry that the department isn’t providing adequate training on the use of deadly force.
“Yeah, it raises all kinds of red flags,” said state Sen. Karl Rhoads, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“It speaks to whether we have the correct training or whether the officers involved were following the correct protocol or if there was a protocol.”
The Department of Public Safety said it is not unusual for police and prosecutors to review cases like these. It is now up to the prosecutor’s office to decide whether to charge murder or manslaughter or not prosecute at all