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Officers justified in fatal shooting of machete-wielding man, prosecutor says

The officers were responding to an assault call about 2:30 am, after reports that Laeli cut off a man’s pinky finger with a machete.
Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 5:03 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 23, 2022 at 5:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two Honolulu police officers were justified in using deadly force in the August 2021 fatal shooting of a machete-wielding man in Kalihi, City Prosecutor Steve Alm said.

The officers shot 41-year-old Elia Laeli in the parking lot of a game room. They were responding to an assault call about 2:30 am, after reports that Laeli cut off a man’s pinky finger with a machete.

In a news conference Wednesday, Alm outlined the facts of the case and showed surveillance video from the building that showed Laeli walking toward a car with one officer close behind. The officer has his service weapon pointed at Laeli with a flashlight. The second officer is a short distance behind.

In the video, Laeli can be seen getting to a car and opening the driver’s side door.

He then bends down, appearing to either get into the car or grab something from it.

Then the video shows Laeli close the door and moves quickly toward the officer.

Surveillance video from officer involved shooting on Aug. 11, 2021
Surveillance video from officer involved shooting on Aug. 11, 2021(Office of the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney)

“The officer instructed Mr. Laeli multiple times to drop the knife,” Alm said.

The video shows one of the officers retreating. He tripped on a concrete parking stop.

Alm said Laeli, still holding the machete, then raised his arms over his head while standing above the officer ― who fired eight times. The second officer also fired.

“Officer two could see that officer one’s life was in danger, and he shot Mr. Laeli to protect officer one,” Alm said.

Laeli was shot a total of nine times. Alm said tests showed Laeli had drugs in his system, including methamphetamine and THC.

Laeli had an outstanding warrant for drug crimes at the time of his death.

Elia Laeli
Elia Laeli(Honolulu Police Department)

He had seven prior arrests, one conviction for harassment.

Alm said the first officer did activate his body camera as soon as he got to the scene, but his jacket obstructed the view. The second officer did not turn his on until after the shooting.

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