HPD criticized for not releasing body cam footage in wake of fatal officer-involved shootings

Updated: Apr. 16, 2021 at 10:40 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said Thursday that the reason police officers fatally shot a man in Nuuanu was clear: He was putting their lives in jeopardy.

But some say that the police department needs to start quickly releasing the body cam footage to justify their actions for this shooting and others and to address community concerns.

Police were called to the home on Coelho Way when residents claimed the suspect — identified by family as 29-year-old Lindani Myeni — walked into their home, removed his shoes, and started talking to them. HPD said he had no weapons and no criminal record.

Ballard said when officers arrived, he charged them and repeatedly punched them, and a Taser failed to stop him. The officers shot the suspect multiple times, Ballard said, after he repeatedly punched officers, including one who sustained multiple facial fractures and a concussion.

Police said the man’s race ― he was Black ― was not a factor. “It had to do with behavior and the fact that this person seriously injured the officers and their lives were in jeopardy,” Ballard said.

But at this point, the public can only take the chief’s word for it because body cam video hasn’t been released. HNN has requested the footage and has not been told when it will be available.

Tommy Aiu, HNN’s law enforcement expert, said body cam footage in a case like this is “tremendous.’

“You need that to show either way whether this shooting was justified,” he said.

HNN is also waiting on video from other recent incidents, including the police shooting of a 16-year-old burglary suspect near McCully and the December shooting of a suspect in Kaneohe.

“For whatever reason, the chief wants to say it’s under investigation, but yet give us a conclusion that the officers were justified in these shootings,” said Ken Lawson, a UH law school instructor.

Recently, other police departments around the country have released body cam videos quickly.

In Minnesota, the video of Daunte Wright was released a day after he was shot this past Sunday.

In Chicago, police released the video of a 13-year-old two weeks after his shooting.

“Police departments will come out and give their versions and you know, and it may be the accurate version, but let us see it right, and to continuously to deny week after week, month after month,” Lawson said. “The public has the right to see the body cam footage is horrible.”

So why isn’t HPD more forthcoming with police shooting videos?

The chief was asked about all those pending cases on Thursday.

“I don’t have that answer for you. Any other questions? OK, thank you,” she said, before walking off.

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