Lawmaker weighs in on State Capitol shooting autopsy report

Local News

We continue our coverage on the fatal shooting at the State Capitol earlier this year. Honolulu police say it’s reclassified the unattended death case to second-degree murder. One lawmaker says the state has been less than forthcoming.

The Public Safety Department says a Deputy Sheriff shot 28-year-old Delmar Espejo in February while being attacked. Immediately after the incident, officials said the victim was shot in the upper body. The autopsy report reveals Espejo was shot in the back. Senator Clarence Nishihara, Public Safety Committee Chair, says that’s concerning.

“Now this calls into question whether there’s a cover-up or not. Why did they state it that way? I think it opens up a can of worms,” said Nishihara.

In a statement from PSD,
PSD reported when asked about the shooting at all post-incident media contacts, that the preliminary reports are that the Deputy fired a single shot striking the subject in the upper torso. The Director was accurate in what was stated during the initial discussion with media after the incident. The medical examiner’s report does not conflict with the initial statement made and, in fact, supports the preliminary reports that the shooting happened in the upper torso. It would be premature to comment further as the internal investigation is ongoing.

The autopsy report was signed and dated on April 18th, just about a week before the director was reconfirmed by the full Senate.

“They never gave us the report, by the way, so we didn’t know that stuff. We kept asking what about the report,” said the Senator, “that’s why I always felt that filing all of these and the director being reappointed, I’m calling to ask that we get an investigative committee to cover all those issues.”

Nishihara says how the Deputy struggled with Espejo prior to the shooting puts into question the Deputy’s training. Lawmakers have asked Director Nolan Espinda about the qualifications of the person running the training program during Espinda’s confirmation hearing and are waiting for more information.

“That person was put in charge of doing the training for all of PSD, the whole department, and the Sheriff was trained under that person as were other Sheriffs,” said Nishihara. “If it seemed the training was lacking, then it does leave the department open for possible legal actions for suits or something.”

We haven’t been able to reach the Prosecutor’s Office for comment. PSD tells us the Deputy Sheriff, as is the usual practice for an officer-involved shooting, was placed on restricted duty.

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