(HONOLULU) — Three Honolulu police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Lindani Myeni, an unarmed South African rugby player, will not face criminal charges, according to the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney.
Honolulu prosecuting attorney Steven S. Alm announced Wednesday that the officers were justified in using deadly force because Myeni, who is Black, refused to comply and attacked the officers. Alm did not name the officers involved in the shooting.
Myeni, who had recently moved to Hawaii with his wife and two young children, was fatally shot on April 14 by Honolulu police who were responding to 911 calls after he apparently accidentally entered a neighbor’s home. According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by his widow, Lindsay Myeni, her husband may have confused the home he entered for a next-door public temple.
Doorbell camera video obtained and made public by the Bickerton Law Group, which is representing the family of Lindani Myeni, shows Myeni arriving at a house, removing his shoes, entering the home and then quickly leaving after his presence confused the occupants. He repeatedly apologized in the video.
Once officers arrived, Myeni repeatedly punched one of the officers who pointed a gun at him and told him to get on the ground, according to documents provided to ABC News by Alm’s office. Alm said the other two officers attempted to stop Myeni by using a stun gun on him and tackling him to the ground before the first officer shot him once in the chest.
Even after being shot in the chest, Alm said Myeni continued punching the officer before another police officer shot him three times, striking him in the torso and right thigh. It was only after the shooting that police can be heard identifying themselves on body camera video. Myeni was pronounced dead of multiple gunshot wounds.
Alm said there was no evidence race played a role in the shooting.
In a statement provided to ABC News, the Bickerton Law Group said the civil case is not affected by this decision and they will continue to move ahead.
“In the civil case, we will address the central questions that Mr. Alm appears to have avoided completely,” the statement said. “When you avoid addressing the very first wrongful act committed, your analysis of what comes afterwards should not be accepted by the public.”
Lawyers representing the family denounced Alm’s decision, saying in a statement that he “did not address whether it was lawful for Mr. Myeni to defend himself from the unknown assailant with a gun. Without that analysis, the rest of his analysis can have no weight.”
“The big question was whether Mr. Myeni knew they were officers, and not a private security detail of the hysterical 911 caller standing behind them who had, just minutes before, falsely pretended to report a ‘break in’ to someone,” the statement continued. “We know that Lindani said ‘Who are you?’ at least twice.”
The Bickerton Law Group said the civil suit will “definitely” address Mr. Alm’s analysis and his “unsupported conclusion that, because of the ‘lighting,’ Mr. Myeni knew they were officers.”
“Mr. Alm did not explain why the officers all had to use flashlights if the lighting was so good, or why Officer #1 says repeatedly after the shooting ‘I couldn’t see him,’ or why Mr. Myeni says, ‘Who are you?'” said James Bickerton, one of the lawyers representing Myeni’s widow. “Nor did Mr. Alm report doing any forensic tests to see what a person in Mr. Myeni’s position would see if a 600 lumens tactical light is shone in their direction on a moonless night.”
The city has not publicly identified the two officers who fired the fatal shots that resulted in Myeni’s death, but Bickerton Law Group said they have identified the officers through an investigation. On Thursday, lawyers representing Myeni’s widow filed papers to name the two officers who fired the fatal shots as additional defendants in the suit.
“I just never thought, I would think of Honolulu as a bad place, as a dark place … it’s just full of love and aloha,” Lindsay Myeni told ABC News in an interview last month. “To have this place be so dark, and to actually have this other side where our police are just like the rest of the mainland, it’s like there’s no safety, there’s actually fear now.”
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