Family of man killed by police at Kapolei gas station files wrongful death lawsuit

Then-HPD Chief Susan Ballard said the officers acted in self-defense.
Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 5:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The family of a man killed by police at a Kapolei gas station two years ago has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Honolulu Police Department.

The HPD said the shooting was justified, but the lawsuit claims police provoked the situation.

“Look, our police department has open season ... when it comes to firing shots into cars, when it comes to firing shots into areas where other innocent people may be hit,” said attorney Eric Seitz, who filed the suit.

Michael Kahalehoe, 30, was shot and killed by plainclothes officers at a Kapolei Shell Station in November 2019.

At the time, then-HPD Chief Susan Ballard said the shooting was in self-defense and that officers clearly identified themselves before attempting to make an arrest.

“The driver proceeded to drive back and forth in an attempt to leave the gas station striking a police vehicle and grazing one of the officers,” Ballard said, during a news conference.

“Fearing for their own lives and that of their fellow officers, five officers discharged their weapons striking the driver multiple times.”

Kahalehoe, had just been released from prison, was a suspect in several armed robberies and was a convicted felon.

Based on statements by a passenger who fled from the car, Seitz said Kahalehoe’s car only lurched forward after he was shot and released the clutch.

Seitz said Kahalehoe had a gun but didn’t take it out. The witness said officers didn’t identify themselves.

He said that officers created the danger to themselves by surrounding the car and added that firing multiple shots in a gas station was also dangerous.

“There would have been a large explosion and people within a several block area could very well have been injured or killed,” he said.

The lawsuit also alleged that the officers didn’t employ de-escalation techniques that could have prevented the shooting.

“Certainly de-escalation is the key in my mind,” said former state lawmaker and police reform advocate Will Espero.

Espero believes officers should be better trained to diffuse these types of situations to prevent costly lawsuits.

“These bad outcomes are costly to taxpayers and it could be tens of thousands of dollar, it could be hundreds of thousands of dollars, it could be millions of dollars,” said Espero.

The HPD had no immediate comment.

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