EXCLUSIVE: M.E.: Kaneohe man died after choked by civilian, not police

Published: Jul. 23, 2013 at 7:46 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 23, 2013 at 11:30 PM HST
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Thirty-five year-old Stephen Dinnan died in police custody in Waimanalo last month after he was placed in a chokehold by a civilian who accompanied police, according to an autopsy report.

The Honolulu Medical Examiner ruled Dinnan's June 4th death was a homicide. Attorney's for Dinnan's family said his death was the result of a misguided attempt at street justice and that race may have been a factor.

"We've heard through various sources that the civilian who was involved in the assault -- while he was assaulting Mr. Dinnan -- made comments to the effect: 'This is what happens when you steal from Hawaiians,'" said Myles Breiner, attorney for Dinnan's family.

The man who allegedly choked Dinnan is the owner of a truck that was stolen at Makapuu that day. The man has not been arrested or charged.

Hawaii News Now has learned that the arresting officer, Windward patrol officer Eric Matsumoto, has been assigned to non-field duties, pending an investigation.

Matsumoto, a 26-year veteran, previously was placed on administrative leave back in June but was later returned to his duties. He was given desk duties after the M.E. report was completed last week.

Breiner said police should have never allowed the truck's owner near the scene.

"I can't think of any protocols with the Honolulu Police Department that allows for a civilian -- in particular a

complaining witness -- to participate in the restraint and assault of an alleged suspect," Breiner said.

According to the coroner's report, Dinnan suffered several fractured ribs, a serious neck injury and more than 30 contusions and abrasions. His death was the result of asphyxia due to force applied to his chest while being restrained.

The report also found traces of marijuana in his blood.

"Someone stepped on his back or placed a knee to his back that it was so powerful that it broke his ribs," said Breiner.

"I would submit that this rises possibly to the level of murder -- whether it was reckless, negligent or deliberate is up to a deliberative body to decide," Breiner said.

Civil rights advocates question why the truck owner was at Waimanalo home in the first place.

"We do have a system and when people take justice into in their own hands, things like this happen," said Kat Brady, coordinator for the Community Alliance on Prisons.

Police says it will ask the Honolulu Prosecutor's office to review its investigation once it's completed. The FBI is conducting its own investigation.

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