Hyun Ju Park was shot in the stomach by an off-duty Honolulu police officer on April 3, 2015.
Officials described the incident as an accident.
Park was a bartender at Kings Sports Bar, and Anson Kimura, a sergeant with 25 years on the force, was drinking there with two of his buddies when his gun went off.
Kimura was eventually charged with assault and sentenced to 60 days in jail. He retired from the Honolulu Police Department before he could be terminated, although HPD lists him as being discharged.
But the case is far from over.
Park filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Hawaii last week against HPD alleging the department should have known Kimura had a drinking problem and a history of depression. The lawsuit states it was “entirely foreseeable” that Kimura presented a danger to the public, and that he should not have been carrying a weapon.
Even more troubling are the allegations of a concerted effort by HPD officials to cover up the shooting along with the help of the police union.
Park’s attorney, Eric Seitz, said Kimura was drinking with two other police officers, Sterling Naki and Joshua Omoso, the night his client was shot.
After the shooting, Seitz said, several members of HPD and the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers showed up on the scene while Naki and Omoso were allowed to leave. Seitz said it appeared that the sole purpose was to protect Kimura.
Seitz also alleged that none of the officers at the scene called 911 or sent for an ambulance.
“They did nothing to help the woman who was shot,” Seitz said in an interview. “They were more concerned about protecting their friend.”
The police union did not responded to an interview request about Park’s lawsuit. An HPD spokeswoman said that the department did not want to comment on pending litigation.
An annual misconduct report filed with the Hawaii Legislature shows that HPD disciplined 10 officers in relation to the cover-up. None of the officers were named, however, because HPD refuses to release such details about officer misconduct to the public.
Two officers were recommended for discharge for failing to report the shooting and providing false statement to investigators. Eight other officers, who were suspended for three to 10 days, were disciplined for failing to properly investigate the shooting.
All 10 officers have appealed HPD’s recommended punishment through a union-approved grievance process.
According to HPD records, most of those cases have gone to arbitration, which means an independent third party will have the final say on whether the officers keep their jobs or serve their suspensions. They could also receive back pay.
The only defendants named in the lawsuit are the city of Honolulu, Kimura, Naki and Omoso. But Seitz said he might include SHOPO as a defendant should the evidence related to the alleged cover-up point in the union’s direction.
“I’m looking at the union’s role in all this, and you can quote me on that,” Seitz said. “I want them to know that I’m looking at the union’s culpability.”
He said this is a particularly egregious case of officer misconduct in that it resulted in severe injury to an innocent bystander. He said the bullet tore up Park’s insides and indicated that she might be permanently disabled as a result.
“SHOPO’s job is to protect those officers as a union, and I understand that, I’m a union guy,” Seitz said. “But there are times when something like this happens where there is a distinct victim and if SHOPO steps over the line to assist somebody in a way that may be detrimental to the victim or to the public that concerns me.
“I don’t want them to be any less vigilant or any less protective of their members. But I want them to do it with integrity.”
Read the lawsuit here: