HPD faces international pressure for more transparency in fatal police shooting

Updated: May. 5, 2021 at 1:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - When Lindani Myeni’s remains were brought back to South Africa on Saturday, officials there began calling on the Biden Administration to investigate how the unarmed descendant of Zulu royalty was killed during a confrontation with three Honolulu Police officers.

“We call on the U.S. government for a full report as speedily as possible and to conduct a thorough investigation into this tragedy, which should be condemned in the strongest terms,” said Lindiwe Zulu, South Africa’s minister of Social Development.

Nonhlanhla Khoza, a member of the Executive Committee at KawZulu-Natal, also complained about the lack of transparency by the Honolulu Police Department.

“As we stand behind you, we are a nation in anger and mourning. We are angry at the snail’s pace of the Honolulu Police Department in releasing information,” she said.

It’s unclear whether the Biden Administration can do anything about the police shooting, which is still under investigation by the HPD and the Honolulu City Prosecutor’s Office.

But the mounting international pressure is placing a harsh spotlight on the HPD’s use of force policies. It’s also reopening old wounds in a land nearly 12,000 miles away from Hawaii.

“This is a very big story in South Africa despite the lack attention received in the United States. This is big news back in South Africa,” said Sherwin Bryce-Pease, national correspondent for the South African Broadcasting Corp.

“When black people are shot by police and their rights are violated in some way by police, it reminds South Africans — particularly black people in South Africa — of the painful past under apartheid minority rule.”

Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard has said race was not a factor.

“I think what we need to remember is it had nothing to do with race. It had to do with behavior and the fact that this person seriously injured the officers,” Ballard said during an April 15 news conference.

HPD released video that showed Myeni attacking all three officers — one was seriously injured. But there is still debate over the shooting.

Some experts said the officers should have announced themselves and tried to deescalate the situation.

“Saying ‘police’ after you fired four to six rounds — that doesn’t work,” said Timothy Williams Jr., a use-of-force expert and former Los Angeles Police Department officer.

“If you approach individuals in a confrontational way, you get confrontation.”

But Malcom Lutu, the local police union’s president, said the body camera video shows one of the officers actually talking to Myeni — before others approached.

“There is no way he didn’t know he was a police officer,” Lutu said.

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