Troubled officer faced spouse abuse, police brutality claim
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Darren Cachola, the Honolulu Police Department sergeant at the center of an investigation after a fight with his girlfriend was caught on video, has faced past allegations of abuse from his ex-wife and a motorcyclist in two separate legal cases.
Five years ago, when Cachola and his now-ex-wife Lisa Marie Gilbert were headed toward a divorce and in a custody dispute over their two children, they both filed competing temporary restraining orders against each other just one day apart in June of 2009.
Her TRO complaint listed six instances where she claimed Cachola pushed, kicked or threatened her at her Aiea home and she filed police complaints in five of those cases.
One of her TRO complaints reported an alleged incident on April 19, 2009 in which she wrote: "Darren was intoxicated one night and started to fight with me. I called his sergeant and then called 911. When he heard that I was calling the police he said, "If I get arrested, I am going to kill you so it will be worth it."
It's unclear if Cachola -- who was then a police officer working out of the Pearl City station -- was ever arrested in any of those five cases filed with HPD.
Cachola's complaints against his then estranged wife allege she left their young children home alone while she went out drinking and also violently jumped into his vehicle, injuring his arm. But it doesn't appear he reported any of those incidents to police.
He claimed she told him "... repeatedly that if I don't follow her rules, that she will make false criminal complaints against me to jeopardize my job as an HPD police officer."
Both TROs were dismissed by mutual consent. Cachola filed for divorce and his ex-wife was awarded custody of the children. Cachola has visitation rights with his children and a court ordered him not to contract his ex-wife for anything other than to arrange visitation. According to divorce records, Cachola pays his ex-wife $1,700 a month in child support and pays for two-thirds of the childrens' private school tuition.
Gilbert declined comment Thursday to Hawaii News Now about the disputes between them.
Cachola was promoted to sergeant in July of this year and is now assigned to HPD's patrol division in the Kalihi area.
In another case, Cachola and another officer were the targets of a 2006 federal police brutality lawsuit in which a motorcyclist claimed Cachola kicked him and broke his rib after a traffic stop in Ewa.
"I said 'Oh my goodness, that's the same police officer that beat up my client, and he's not only the same officer that beat up my client, but he obviously got a promotion, because he's a sergeant," said Daphne Barbee-Wooten, the attorney who represented the motorcyclist, Christopher Bartolome.
Despite testimony from Bartolome, doctors and a third-party witness, a federal jury sided with the police.
"They chose to believe the two police officers,” Barbee-Wooten said. “Police officers tend to back each other up. They're not going to come out and be a whistle blower and say, 'Yes, I saw him do this.'"
Police claimed Bartolome broke his rib in the 2004 incident when he fell off his motorbike but he and a third-party witness said the officers dragged him off his bike and Cachola kicked him while he was on the ground.
"And had I had a video, I hope it would have been different," Barbee-Wooten said. "The witness said it was like something out of the Rodney king beating."
The police report said the officers smelled alcohol on Bartolome's breath, “but he had a helmet on, so they couldn't have smelled alcohol on his breath,” Barbee-Wooten said.
The officers took him to a police station where they found no alcohol in his system and testing at the hospital later found he had no drugs in his system, she added.
HPD has opened an internal affairs investigation after video of Cachola's fight with his girlfriend at a Waipahu restaurant Monday night was delivered to the police department and media outlets Tuesday.
The internal probe will look not only at Cachola's actions, but also those of the police officers who responded to a 911 call at the scene who did not initiate a criminal case and did not arrest Cachola.
Cachola's girlfriend, who identified herself to Hawaii News Now as Deberah, claimed they were only “playing around.” She said she was not injured and told officers who responded she did not want to file a complaint.
The Hawaii Women's Legislative Caucus, made up of 23 women state lawmakers, as well as the three women members of the Honolulu City Council, Thursday called on the Honolulu Police Department to explain in a public briefing its policies and procedures for responding to domestic violence and other crimes when a police officer is the suspect and that officer is a supervisor.
"This incident sends a dark message to victims of domestic violence and all residents of Oahu, that members of HPD, who are supposed to serve and protect, may turn a blind eye to domestic violence or other criminal acts committed by of one of their officers,” a statement by the two lawmakers' groups said.
"The integrity of HPD has been mired and trust has been lost. We demand public accountability," the statement said.
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