HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm held a press conference on Wednesday regarding the fatal officer-involved shooting of 29-year-old Lindani Myeni.
Alm said the use of deadly force was justified in the April 14 police shooting and will not file charges against any of the three HPD officers involved.
In late April, Myeni’s widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City and HPD officers involved in his death. The lawsuit says responding officers were motivated by racial discrimination.
“We did not find any evidence that race played any part in this case,” Alm said on Wednesday.
New video released in June shows the moments leading up to the shooting in Nuuanu. Attorneys for Myeni’s widow published the doorbell, 911 call and unredacted bodycam footage online, claiming that it shows an entirely different story than the one HPD presented.
On Wednesday, Alm shared findings from a two-month independent investigation into the shooting using bodycam footage, stills and maps to explain why the use of deadly force was justified.
Alm says the bizarre string of events actually started about a half hour prior to the shooting at Kewalo Basin.
That’s where, at 7:42 pm, four other officers went to investigate a call for an unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle, during which Myeni tried to intervene in the investigation, asked an officer for money for food, and tried to get into the back seat of an HPD vehicle.
After that incident, investigators say Myeni drove directly to 91 Coelho Way, where the shooting took place. Alm describes Myeni’s behavior that night as strange and bizarre. He adds that by the time Myeni fought with the three officers in Nuuanu, he should have known that they were police officers.
Alm says Myeni’s strange behavior continued when he went inside the Nuuanu house and told the woman who was staying there, “I have videos of you. You know why I’m here.” He then said he lived in the house, and a cat that was in the house was his. Alm says Myeni stayed inside for five minutes even though she asked him to leave several times and told him she was calling the police.
“And he said, ‘Tell them I’m from South Africa. I’m on a hunt. I’m on a safari.’ He lowered his feathered headband, and he said, ‘We’re hunting and there’s no time,'” said Alm.
Alm says Myeni told her that he is not afraid of the police.
“Him saying that I’m not afraid of the police, I think it’s a glimpse into what his attitude was toward the police officers or toward the police in general,” said Alm.
He adds that the street lights were bright, so it’s easy to see that the officers had their uniforms on. He said two of the officers fired at Myeni and that the shooting was justified because they tried using non-lethal means, but Myeni kept fighting, and the officers feared for their safety.
“Even after verbal commands, a firing of a Taser, yelling about Taser, actually getting shot by Officer 1, Mr. Myeni would not stop his attack on Officer 1,” said Alm.
There was speculation that Myeni might have been trying to go to the temple next door, but Alm says there are no facts supporting that.
“If in fact Mr. Myeni was looking for the temple, it would have taken him maybe a few seconds after getting into the house to realize oh, no temple, wrong place, turn around, leave,” he said.
The attorney for the Myeni family says he is still moving forward with the civil lawsuit against the City. In a statement he adds, “Mr. Alm’s focus on the shooting ignored the first action of ordering an unarmed person to lie on the ground at gunpoint. That is ordinarily the crime of terroristic threatening, kidnapping, or reckless endangering.”
HPD Interim chief Rade Vanic sent a statement saying, “We are thankful that two of our officers were able to return to work, and we continue to support our third officer as he recovers from his injuries.”