City council committee approves settlement in police brutality lawsuit

City to settle lawsuit over police beating
Published: Jul. 23, 2015 at 12:43 AM HST|Updated: Jul. 23, 2015 at 3:53 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Honolulu city council committee has approved a settlement in a lawsuit filed against the city by a Waipahu man who claimed he was beaten by an off-duty police officer.

Justin Kaawa filed the suit shortly after the April 2011 incident. He said that an unmarked car tailgated his vehicle and flashed its lights near the Makakilo on ramp to the H-1 Freeway. He pulled over after a marked police car showed up. That's when the off-duty officer dragged him out of his car and threw him to the ground.

"He continues to punch me on the back of my head, he maces me in the face again, and after that he lets me -- he slams my head onto the asphalt. Grinds my face in the asphalt," said Kaawa in an interview ten days after the encounter.

Kaawa was hospitalized for two days after the incident. At the time, Honolulu police officials said Kaawa was originally arrested on two counts of assault on a police officer, but no charges were ever filed against him.

"He didn't know what they were talking about, and there's no evidence of anything being in the street," said Kaawa's attorney, Michael Green. "And the cars were stopped, pulled over on the shoulder, and then bad things happened."

The city council's Executive Matters and Legal Affairs committee approved the settlement in executive session Tuesday. The settlement amount isn't being disclosed yet, but Green says the result was fair and that it sends a message.

"My client feels that the law protects citizens sometimes, even if the person you're accusing is in law enforcement," he said.

The settlement is expected to be approved by the full council at its next meeting, and that's when the amount Kaawa gets will be made public.

HPD did not comment, but confirmed that the officer in the case is an eight-year veteran and remains on the force.

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