A truck driver who was dragged from his vehicle and pummeled by an off-duty Honolulu police officer on the shoulder of Farrington Highway in December 2015 has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the city.

Jonard Escalante hired Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz to represent him in the lawsuit, which says that Keoki Duarte, who has since been discharged from the Honolulu Police Department, punched, kicked and choked Escalante on the side of the road after a minor car accident.

The suit states Duarte has a history of violence and suffered from “emotional distress and/or anger management problems related to his employment with the Honolulu Police Department.”

A new lawsuit says city has a history of ignoring and concealing officer misconduct. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

The complaint cited a 2012 incident in which Duarte and seven other HPD officers were accused of roughing up two hikers they mistook for burglars.

According to the hikers, the officers slammed them face-first into the ground during the arrest. One of the men said he could feel a gun barrel in the back of his head while he was being held in the dirt. The other suffered broken bones in his face.

That case also resulted in a federal lawsuit against the the city, and was eventually settled for $167,500. It highlighted deep-rooted problems in oversight of HPD and how the department responds to excessive use of force by officers.

None of the officers were disciplined at the time, despite the fact that the Honolulu Police Commission found they had all violated protocol.

The new suit states that, based on this incident and the lack of corrective action, it was foreseeable that Duarte would lash out again.

But Seitz, who was unavailable for comment Tuesday, took the argument one step further. The suit states that the city has a pattern of avoiding culpability when it comes to officer misconduct.

Seitz described it as a “de facto policy, practice or custom of abstaining from reporting instances of misconduct of officers, resulting in the failure to adequately discipline and/or prevent such misconduct from occurring in the future.”

He listed several examples and included the names of 20 officers, including Duarte, who have been accused of serious misconduct or criminal wrongdoing in recent years.

In The Name Of The Law

Among the officers were Darren Cachola, who was caught on surveillance video attacking his girlfriend in a restaurant, Anson Kimura, who accidentally shot a bartender in the stomach, and Vincent Morre, who was prosecuted in federal court for assaulting a man inside an Ala Moana game room while searching for a fugitive who was not there.

Such cases — all of which Seitz said involved some level of cover-up — only “encouraged and emboldened” Duarte to act the way he did the morning he beat Escalante, the suit states.

City attorneys did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. An HPD spokeswoman also deferred comment, citing the pending litigation.

Duarte was prosecuted for his assault on Escalante and pleaded no contest to charges that included unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle and third-degree assault. He was then placed on probation and granted a deferral on his plea that will allow the incident to be scrubbed from his record so long as he stays out of trouble.

Duarte was discharged from HPD as a result of the incident, but has appealed his termination. That appeal is pending.

Read the lawsuit here:

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