HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Back in February 2019, undercover police officers investigating an alleged shoplifting case surrounded Waianae resident Kyle Thomas’ car in Mililani.
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said back then that Thomas drove at them, forcing them to shoot and kill the 26-year-man.
But a lawsuit by Thomas’ family filed today is challenging the HPD’s account.
“What we’ve been told is the first shot that was fired which was the fatal shot was fired before the car moved,” said Eric Seitz, attorney for Thomas’ family.
“Mr Thomas was in the process of holding his hand in view and the police officer came up and shot him.”
Seitz said two witnesses -- Thomas’ friends in the car -- told him that police didn’t even identify themselves before the shooting happened.
They said the car only accelerated after Thomas was shot, said Seitz.
“After that happened, the passenger in the car, reached down because he saw Mr. Thomas’ foot was on the accelerator and tried to remove his foot and the car jumped forward anyway and that’s the only movement of the car,” said Seitz.
Family members said Thomas -- who had a minor criminal record -- didn’t know the men were police officers and would have surrendered had uniformed police officer been involved.
The HPD had no immediate comment and said after 17 months the department is still investigating.
With the recent killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and the ongoing public outrage over police brutality nationwide, officer involved shootings like this are getting heightened scrutiny.
The HPD, for instance, is reviewing its use of force policies -- and is looking specifically at policies involving undercover officers.
”Were looking at doing more formal training for plainclothes units and also looking for intermediate weapons for them. Because right now, they just carry their guns and it goes from touch to bang and there’s no options between,” Ballard said during a Honolulu Police Commission meeting on June 17.
“We have training as for positioning as far as moving vehicles so you don’t put yourself in that situation if that car drives at you.”
Seitz said that’s hardly any consolation for Thomas’ family.
“Frankly, this is one of these cases that we’ve seen too many of where minor offense occur and somebody died,” he said.