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HPD says offensive drawing that prompted 10-year-old’s arrest was ‘credible threat’

Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 4:09 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 10, 2021 at 7:30 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Department says it will not make any changes to its procedures or protocols after reviewing the arrest of a 10-year-old girl over an offensive drawing.

The girl, who is Black, was handcuffed and brought to jail in January 2020 after a drawing she made upset another student’s parent at Honowai Elementary School in Waipahu.

Last month, the ACLU and the girl’s mother issued a demand letter to HPD, saying that it needed to change its policies. They claimed the police and school acted improperly, including by allowing the girl to be questioned without a parent present and escalating the situation.

In a letter responding to the ACLU on Monday, interim HPD Chief Rade Vanic says having a parent or guardian present is up to the child.

Police say the girl was not questioned and officers did not take any statement from her.

“Without asking any questions as to the instant charge, the person is then given an opportunity to say I want someone present, I want my lawyer present, I want a family member present, I want my mom or dad present before any questions ensue,” said HNN law enforcement analyst and retired federal agent, Tommy Aiu.

“So, in this case, that would have been done, but with this particular situation, that issue is moot because, as stated in the letter, no police interview or interrogation occurred, and no statement was taken.”

The attorneys also claimed race played a role in the arrest.

Vanic dismissed the ACLU’s claims and said the arrest was not racially-motivated.

The interim chief characterized the drawing as a “credible threat that instilled fear in the victim and was of significant concern to school authorities and the victim’s family.”

He said the drawing depicted a girl holding and pointing a gun “with a severed head at her feet. Your client also wrote a clear message addressed to two classmates by name.”

The message included foul language, including, “F*ckin’ days are over NOW.”

“The threat was taken seriously by one of the named victims who was upset, distressed and scared enough to tell a parent who, in turn, brought it to the attention of the school,” Vanic said.

“When you throw in the words kill, and you have the F bombs in there, and the other foul language, it creates a different level of anxiety and threat,” said Aiu. “So, I think the police again took appropriate action.”

He said HPD’s policies are “appropriate, reasonable and legally compliant” and that the officers’ actions “were not racially motivated. ... The HPD’s response was need-based.”

The state Department of Education also responded to the letter in which interim superintendent Keith Hayashi said they would not accept the demands made and that the DOE did not falsely arrest the girl, use any excessive force or discriminate against her based on race or disability.

The ACLU has said the arrest was “straight up wrong.”

Mateo Caballero, who represents the student and her mother, added there is no reason to believe the girl was violent. “She didn’t bring any weapons to school, she didn’t make any explicit threats to anyone,” he said in October, after the ACLU made its demands to HPD public.

Hawaii News Now reached out to the ACLU for comment, but have yet to hear back.

Vanic’s letter made no mention of the $500,000 in damages demanded by the girl’s family.

READ THE HPD’S FULL LETTER:

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