Four HPD officers charged with felonies for alleged illegal police chase, failing to render aid after crash
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Four HPD officers who allegedly pursued a sedan without their lights and sirens on and then failed to render aid after a horrific crash that left six injured have been charged with felony counts.
The stunning development on Thursday afternoon comes a year and half after the crash ― and following what city Prosecutor Steve Alm called an “exhaustive investigation and review of the evidence.”
“These charges demonstrate that it is important to seek justice even when those believed to have committed crimes are the very people we expect to uphold the law,” he said, in a news release.
Officer Joshua Nahulu was charged with collisions involving death or serious bodily injury.
That’s a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Meanwhile, Officers Erik Smith, Jake Bartolome, and Robert Lewis face counts of first-degree hindering prosecution, punishable by up to five years in prison, along with conspiracy to commit hindering prosecution.
All four officers, who were arrested and posted bail Thursday, have been on desk duty since 2021.
Acting Police Chief Keith Horikawa issued a statement calling the charges and injuries in the case “serious.”
The statement continued:
“Three of the officers had their police powers removed following the crash, and the fourth officer’s police powers will also be restricted. Along with the collision investigation, an internal administrative investigation was initiated and remains open.”
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Authorities said the incident started about 3:30 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2021, when officers were dispatched to investigate a noise complaint at Maili Beach Park and came across a white sedan.
The car exited the parking lot onto Farrington Highway, and Nahulu, Smith and Bartolome allegedly followed in an “unannounced pursuit,” not turning their sirens and blue lights on as is required.
‘Criminal beyond criminal’
The Prosecutor’s Office said Nahulu is accused of being “nearest to the sedan” when it lost control and crashed onto private property at about 3:45 a.m. All six occupants were sustained injuries, some critical.
Authorities allege Nahulu, Smith, and Bartolome drove past the crash scene, failing to render aid.
And a short time later, all four officers were dispatched to the crime scene “where they allegedly comported themselves as having no knowledge of what happened,” the city Prosecutor’s Office said.
Michael Stern, an attorney for four of those injured in the crash, said the officers’ actions were shocking.
“Everything they did was criminal beyond criminal,” he said.
“It just makes everybody scared of the police, and makes them wonder whether they should even talk to the police when really they should be. It really is a bad thing for the community.”
Prosecutors say Smith, Bartolome, and Lewis also submitted false reports as part of the alleged cover-up.
Previously, Stern claimed an officer’s “grudge” may have played a role in the police chase.
Partial settlement reached
Last month, four of those injured reached a tentative multi-million-dollar settlement with the city.
That deal doesn’t include the car’s driver, who suffered permanent brain injuries, or a teenager who was left paralyzed. Those two have filed separate suits, which are pending.
Former HPD Deputy Chief John McCarthy has called the chase, which was partially caught on surveillance cameras, “one of the most clear-cut cases there is of liability ... violating policy and violating criminal law.”
READ THE COURT FILING:
4 officers charged in connection with police chase by HNN on Scribd
“They never thought they were going to get caught,” said McCarthy. “They’re thinking like criminals. Criminals commit crimes not thinking they’re going to get caught.”
Hawaii News Now broke the story about the criminal investigation into the officers on Sept. 16, 2021.
Back then, witness Anthony Charles told HNN said he saw one of the police vehicles clip the sedan, sending it flying. When the Honda lost control, it plowed through fence posts and a tree and came to rest near a rock wall.
Charles said he stopped to render aid, but the three officers kept going, returning after 911 was called.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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