Big Island musician Robert “Lopaka” Ryder was murdered in 2013 by Martin Booth, a one-time meth dealer who shot Ryder twice, then used a hammer to bash in his skull, according to court documents. Booth is serving a life sentence after being convicted of the murder in December 2014.

Police said in court records that Booths’s motive appears to have been retaliation for an assault Ryder supposedly committed against a woman who lived on Booth’s property.

But a lawsuit filed in state circuit court last month now blames Hawaii County police for Ryder’s murder.

Hawaii County police officials are accused in a recent lawsuit of giving up information that led to the death of a confidential informant.

Hawaii County police officials are accused in a recent lawsuit of giving up information that led to the death of a confidential informant.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

His family says Ryder, 37, was a confidential informant for the Hawaii County Police Department’s vice division, and that officers there failed to protect his identity from Booth. The complaint doesn’t specify how Booth found out that Ryder was an informant.

The lawsuit also states that when Ryder’s family asked the department for details about his death that authorities hid information in “a fraudulent attempt to cover-up” their responsibility for the murder.

Honolulu attorney William Harrison, who is representing Ryder’s family, said he did not want to comment on the matter beyond the initial complaint because he is still investigating leads in the case.

Harrison did say, however, that what the public heard during Booth’s trial and in the press does not appear to be the full truth of what happened.

“That’s the public story,” Harrison said. “We don’t subscribe to that story.”

Hawaii County Corporation Counsel Molly Stebbins said she could not comment on the litigation because the county has not yet been served with a complaint.

Martin Booth pleaded guilty to killing Robert "Lopaka" Ryder on the Big Island. Booth is a convicted drug dealer.

Martin Booth pleaded guilty to killing Robert “Lopaka” Ryder on the Big Island. Booth is a convicted drug dealer.

The Hawaii County Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit stated that it’s “critical” for police departments to protect the identities of confidential informants so that their health and safety are not put in jeopardy.

It’s not unique for informants and witnesses to be subjected to harassment, intimidation and violence, particularly when dealing with high-level crimes.

For instance, in Richmond, Calif., a confidential informant was shot three times in 2005 after a crooked cop revealed his identity to a local drug dealer.

The informant sued the city and won a $700,000 settlement in 2014. It was recommended he be placed in witness protection.

A similar $375,000 settlement was reached in Longview, Wash., in 2014, after a confidential informant was killed by a drug dealer who discovered he was working for the police.

The parents of the slain man said that the police didn’t do enough to protect their son after he had performed several undercover drug buys.

You can read the Ryder family’s lawsuit here:

About the Author