A wayward bullet from his .38 Smith and Wesson could cost former Honolulu police officer Anson Kimura $300,000, according to recently filed court records.
Kimura accidentally shot a bartender in the stomach while at a King Street bar with colleagues in 2015.
The victim, Hyun Ju Park, who has incurred more than $1 million in medical bills, filed a lawsuit in April saying that the Honolulu Police Department should have done more to prevent the shooting because it knew Kimura had a drinking problem and history of emotional distress.
She said department officials also colluded with the police union to cover up the shooting in an effort to protect Kimura and two of his colleagues, Sterling Naki and Joshua Omoso, who were with him when he accidentally fired his gun.
All three men, Kimura, Naki and Omoso, are named as defendants in Park’s lawsuit, along with the city, which was their employer at the time.
Kimura retired from the HPD before he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and an internal investigation into his conduct was completed. The department disciplined at least 10 officers in connection with the incident.
But court records show that Kimura now wants to settle his portion of the lawsuit while Park and her attorneys continue to pursue matters further against his co-defendants in federal court. Kimura has even agreed to cooperate with Park’s attorneys.
Park is represented by the law office of Eric Seitz, a well-known Honolulu attorney, who frequently takes on high-profile police misconduct cases.
Seitz did not want to speak about the case or the proposed settlement agreement Thursday.
Late last month, Bronson Avila, an attorney in Seitz’s office, filed a proposed settlement agreement between Park and Kimura that would allow him to settle the case for $300,000.
The money, which comes from Kimura’s homeowners insurance policy, would be divided evenly — $100,000 apiece — between Park, Seitz’s law firm and Dongbu Insurance Co., which has paid for Park’s medical expenses using a workers compensation policy.
The proposed agreement also states that Kimura would cooperate with Seitz’s law firm and provide testimony on Park’s behalf in both the lawsuit and any other administrative matter that might arise as a result of her injuries.
The proposal also made clear that the settlement does not dismiss any of the claims Park made against Kimura with respect to his “official capacity as a former employee of the Honolulu Police Department.”
Kimura’s attorney, J. Patrick Gallagher, did not return a phone call Thursday seeking comment on the proposed settlement agreement, but in court records he described the proposal as “entirely reasonable in light of the circumstances.”
Gallagher wrote that if Park wanted to get more than $300,000 out of Kimura “she would face a long, expensive process with no guarantee of success.”
Gallagher added that settling the case now would allow both Park and Kimura to “avoid the stress, uncertainty, and greater expense of further litigation and trial.”
Kenneth Lawson, who teaches criminal law at the University of Hawaii and is a co-director of the Hawaii Innocence Project, said that getting Kimura to settle is a “smart move” on the plaintiff’s part, especially when her complaint involves an alleged conspiracy within HPD.
He said the tactic is often employed by prosecutors in criminal cases in which key witnesses alleged to have taken part in wrongdoing refuse to testify. Offering immunity or leniency can be a means to get cooperation and insider information that helps crack the larger case.
“As a prosecutor you offer them a deal and you flip them, and that’s exactly what’s happening here,” Lawson said. “This settlement allows the plaintiff in this case not only to receive compensation for the victim, but it also requires (Kimura) to tell the truth in upcoming depositions and testimony about what happened to her.”
A federal judge still must sign off on the agreement before it is final. A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 31.
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