Attorney for victims in deadly Kakaako crash raises questions about officers’ actions

Updated: Nov. 7, 2019 at 6:06 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Newly-released Honolulu police body cam and other surveillance video show the moments before and the chaos after a horrific crash that killed three pedestrians in Kakaako in January.

The attorney for two survivors and one of those killed said the videos also show that police were involved in an improper pursuit leading up to the crash.

One video, taken from a city bus, shows a pickup truck speeding down Ala Moana Bouelvard followed just seconds later by a police vehicle.

[Read more: Police: Driver was going more than 60 mph just before triple-fatal pedestrian crash]

“What I saw in the bus video, the officer was traveling at an extremely fast rate of speed in a highly populated area,” said Honolulu Police Commission chair Loretta Sheehan.

“It was a very disturbing video.”

Later at the scene, Officer Sheldon Watts ― the driver of the police SUV following the pickup ― is recorded on his own body cam predicting that pursuing the suspect might be used against him.

“This is f***** up man,” he’s heard saying. “I know they are going to try to hang this s*** on me.”

The camera also picks up other officers talking about the incident.

“We don’t want anything coming back thinking that ― at no time was this some kind of pursuit, where you drove the guy into ... I mean granted he’s probably 210 (police code for driving under the influence) but you know what I mean, just to cover yourself very well,” an officer tells Watts.

Attorney Robert Kawamura contends the conversation shows police were telling Watts what to say in his report.

“I don’t want to say coached, but anyone listening to the body cam footage can draw their own conclusion,” he said.

But Sheehan disagrees. She believes the video footage shows that HPD is being transparent.

“The reason why those body camera audio and videos exist is because HPD kept them, put them into evidence and then gave them out,” she said.

“That reflects a careful and thorough investigation, not a cover-up.”

The driver of the pickup truck, Alins Sumang, is charged with manslaughter.

Police say he was drunk at the time of the crash. They found a half-empty bottle of vodka in his truck. He’s set to go to trial in February.

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