HAWAII POLICE BRUTALITY
Lindani Myeni’s family prepares to file wrongful death lawsuit against city and county of Honolulu
The Myeni family is bringing a civil suit against the City of Honolulu where three policemen attacked and killed Lindani Myeni last week. Myeni was shot when he got into an altercation with police who approached him without announcing themselves and telling him to ‘get down on the ground’.
The lawyer for the Lindani Myeni family in Hawaii has told Daily Maverick that there are lots of questions still waiting for answers in how police behaved on the night they killed the 29-year old South African husband and father of two. Only after Myeni had been shot did the police announce themselves.
Speaking to Daily Maverick on Thursday 22 April, lawyer Jim Bickerton said that he was “preparing to file a wrongful death lawsuit” within a few hours. Bickerton said the police had threatened force by telling Myeni to “get down on the ground” without announcing themselves, and that Myeni had reacted the way any man would when someone is coming at you in a threatening manner.
He said the family was waiting for answers and added with some emotion that Myeni’s widow is also still waiting to have her husband’s wedding ring and cellphone returned to her — that both items hold emotions and memories:
“So many photographs on his phone, of the family and their babies.”
He said they are also still waiting for police to release more information on the call-out that ended in Myeni’s death. The police had been called to a burglary in process, yet to date, no evidence of this has come to light.
There are questions on why, of the three policemen on the scene, one had his camera off and questions as to what was said between police and the dispatcher while en route to the scene and at the scene, and in the moments before and after Myeni’s death.
A few days after the shooting, the Honolulu Police Department released to the media what could be called “curated” body camera footage of two of the policemen involved in the shooting. The third policeman apparently turned on his body camera only after the shooting. According to Acting Deputy Police Chief Allan Nagata, the footage released to the media was “relevant” and “contains the actual assault”.
What the footage does clearly show is that it is night, and dark. A main criticism of the police has been that they did not announce themselves as police until after shots were fired, which is also very clear on the footage.
This was highlighted by Bickerton, who said that “there was no moon”. He also pointed out that the police had shone their “high-intensity flashlights” directly into Myeni’s eyes.
After the shooting, police responded to the question of why they did not announce themselves, with Nagata saying that the officers were in uniform and “they’re coming there with the police cars”, inferring that it was therefore clear that they were police.
The police body cams show that they came upon Myeni in an area that seems so badly lit it would have been very hard for him to tell that they were in uniform. The police vehicle they arrived in, which can be briefly seen on the video and appeared to be parked near some lights, can also be seen to be outside of Myeni’s line of sight.
In the video, the first officer approaches Myeni — in the dark — while shining a flashlight in his face and shouting, “Get on the ground, now!”
Myeni rushes at him and punches him, while another policeman runs towards them shouting, “Taser, taser, taser”, and the sound of the taser is clearly heard. According to the police, the taser was used, but was ineffective, according to Nagata — who also claims to have been “frightened” when he saw the body cam footage.
Myeni turns to fend him off and a shot is heard. Then the third policeman comes up and three shots are fired, followed by a loud, sharp, shout: “Police!”
Anyone who has the stomach to watch the video can find it and will clearly see how dark it was and the fact that the only time the word “police” is heard, is after the shots have been fired and Myeni is down.
In South Africa, friends and coaches of the former first-class rugby player echoed Myeni’s wife Lindsay Myeni, in calling him “a gentle giant” as they expressed their shock and disbelief.
While some South Africans are angry and sad at what they say is one of our own becoming another statistic of police brutality and racism in America, it is clear that Myeni’s wife, his lawyer and the surrounding community want justice.
Hawaiian activists have been vocal on social media and also in organising protests, especially as the shooting of Myeni follows another fatal police shooting on 5 April in which a 16-year-old was shot in a car chase. There were four other people in the car at the time of the shooting — aged between 14 and 22. Those police officers have been put on administrative leave.
Activists say they want justice for all victims of police brutality and for these kinds of incidents to stop. DM
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