A man arrested after National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration volunteers called police to report he was harassing a Hawaiian monk seal at a Nanakuli beach has filed an excessive force lawsuit.
The lawsuit says Jamie Kalani Rice stood motionless as a Honolulu police officer used a baton to hit him in the arms, torso and legs.
His attorney Michael Green said Monday his client is bipolar and suffers from schizophrenia.
The Honolulu Police Department declined to comment on pending litigation.
Video recorded by the NOAA volunteers shows Rice kneeling next to the endangered animal. The video shows the officer approach and pull out pepper spray and a baton. Rice walks away and the officer follows. The officer is seen hitting Rice with the baton until Rice hits the ground.
Prosecutors are again looking into the case of a Honolulu police officer who can be seen on video repeatedly hitting a man with a baton before arresting him.
Deputy prosecutors had initially declined to pursue charges against officer Ming Wang in the September 2014 incident. But Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro has ordered his staff to re-examine the case.
Dave Koga, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, said that Kaneshiro disagreed with the deputy's decision to decline and assigned the case to another deputy to review and possibly send to a grand jury. Koga said he wasn't able to elaborate further.
The video shows 41-year-old Jamie Kalani Rice kneeling next to a monk seal on a Nanakuli beach. It was recorded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration volunteers Barbara and Robert Billand, who told police that Rice had been harassing the endangered animal.
The video shows Wang approach Rice and pull out pepper spray and a baton. Rice eventually walks away and Wang follows him. The officer can then be seen hitting Rice with the baton until Rice hits the ground.
Wang arrested Rice for allegedly harassing a monk seal and resisting arrest, but prosecutors dropped the resisting arrest charge. Rice later told a judge that he believed the seal was sick and never meant harm toward it.
Wang said in his police report that Rice had refused his orders to step away from the seal. He also said he told Rice that he was under arrest, but that Rice kept walking.
Wang said he used pepper spray on Rice, but that it was not effective. He then hit Rice in the right thigh with the baton after commands to get on the ground, Wang wrote.
Rice was treated for broken bones in his right hand.
The Honolulu Police Department said it launched both administrative and criminal assault investigations into Wang's conduct and forwarded the criminal investigation to prosecutors for review.
The department said it completed its administrative investigation but cannot comment on it because such investigations are confidential unless they result in termination.
The deputy prosecutor who reviewed the case said that he recommended against pursuing charges because the video did not have sound to determine what was said between Wang and Rice, and Rice had signed a waiver of prosecution.
A lawsuit has been filed against the city in connection with an alleged police beating that was shot on home video by witnesses that’s gone viral on social media.
The incident happened in September 2014 at a beach in Nanakuli. The police officer was responding to a report of a man harassing a monk seal. The man said he was chanting at the seal when the officer came up to him and told him to move. The man claims he started to move back but then the officer pepper sprayed him and began to beat him with his baton.
Attorney Michael Green said “everyone is entitled to justice. Everyone is entitled to the protection of the laws and when you get people that are really weak, where the offender doesn’t think they have a voice in our society and our government and the right to object to this kind of treatment, it goes on and on. … There has to be a stop to it.”
KHON2 reached out to the Honolulu Police Department for comment, but a spokesperson said they haven’t received any official notice of a lawsuit yet and can’t comment.
The officer involved was placed on desk duty after the incident, but was later returned to full duty status.