Family will sue over violent beach arrest caught on video

Web Extra: Video shows confrontation with officer
Published: Dec. 15, 2015 at 10:10 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2015 at 8:10 PM HST
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Rice's Attorney, Michael Green
Rice's Attorney, Michael Green

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An attorney for the family of the man who was caught on video being pepper sprayed and hit multiple times with a baton by a police officer during an arrest plans to sue the city for police brutality.

Volunteers shot a video at a Nanakuli beach on September 11, 2014 and called the police saying that Jamie Rice was harassing an endangered monk seal on the beach.

The video showed police officer Ming Wang getting out his baton shortly after arriving at the scene, and the officer said Rice refused his orders to step away from the seal.

The officer said he called dispatch for backup officers and told Rice he was under arrest, but the video showed Rice started walking down the beach, and then picking up his belongings.

Claiming Rice was "resisting arrest," Wang sprayed him with pepper spray and then hit him several times with his baton, until he dropped to the ground.

"This guy was a threat to no one other than the seal. And the seal and he had parted ways long before that.  This is shameful," said Attorney Michael Green, who is representing Rice and his family. He said Rice broke three fingers in the beating.

"This guy had his arms down, his head down in a subservient way and he starts getting beaten and beaten and beaten and brought to the ground," Green said.

Police have said the officer followed proper protocol for someone resisting arrest: using pepper spray first and then hitting him in the thighs with a baton to bring him to the ground.

"If officers are trained to do certain things, react to certain situations.  You've gotta use your brain and decide what force is necessary and reasonable," Green said.

In an interview on Hawaii News Now's Sunrise program, Mayor Kirk Caldwell called the video "very disturbing."

"What you show on this video is way over the top in my mind in terms of use of excessive force," Caldwell said Monday. "Watching the videotape in and of itself is something that troubles me immensely."

"If I was the chief of police, I probably would put this guy on desk duty, take away his badge, his baton and his gun and say until this investigation is completed, we want you to sit at a desk," Caldwell added.

Sources told Hawaii News Now that immediately following the incident last fall, HPD temporarily re-assigned Wang to a desk job, but when the City Prosecutor's office declined to prosecute him, the department put him back on the road.

The officer remains on full duty, but a police internal investigation is underway and for a second time, prosecutors are reviewing the case for potential criminal charges against the officer.  The case might be sent to a grand jury.

Rice's family said he suffers from bipolar disorder, has been homeless and spent time in mental hospitals in Hawaii and Washington state.  Rice is now living in a halfway house in Pearl City, his family members said.

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