$1.4 million settlement reached in Honolulu police custody death

$1.4 million settlement reached in Honolulu Police custody death
Published: May. 7, 2014 at 11:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city pays up to settle a homicide for which no one was ever charged. The victim was a Nanakuli truck driver who was accidentally suffocated by Honolulu Police officers.

Taxpayers will have to pay $1.4 million to the family of Aaron Torres. He died at the hands of Honolulu police officers while mentally unstable and high on drugs.

In February 2012, attorneys said 37-year-old Aaron Torres was high on cocaine and repeatedly called 911 saying he needed help. When police arrived, Torres was mentally unstable. His wife asked the officers to take him in for treatment. Torres was acting strange and threatening, so the three police officers handcuffed and shackled him, then pinned him down. That's when he suffocated.

"To watch him die right in front of you when they could see he was prone in a dirt driveway with this weight on his body that is fracturing bones, they didn't try to kill him," said Michael Green, attorney for Torres' wife.

The medical examiner said he died from "mechanical asphyxia during police restraint due to or as a consequence of a cocaine induced excited delirium." A contributing factor was his history of chronic cocaine abuse, the report stated. The manner of death was homicide.

"When you have a medical examiner citing the cause of death as homicide and it's at the hands of law enforcement it's not good," said Green.

Torres' wife and sister sued. The reason for such a high payout was because attorneys say he was making about $100,000 a year as a union teamster driving trucks for "Hawaii Five-0."

The city or Honolulu Police Department could not comment.

The three officers are still on the force although not working in the Waianae area. Two are now sergeants.

No charges were filed against them because the prosecutor's office said there was no indication they acted recklessly, especially given Torres' combative actions.

Still the payout was approved by the city council today and the $1.4 million will likely be paid in a lump sum, tax free, later this year.

Police had been called to the Torres house before for psychiatric issues. Torres also had a misdemeanor assault in 2003 and three other misdemeanors for having illegal animals and insects.

The Torres family was seeking $10 million in damages.

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