The mother of a man shot and killed by Honolulu police officers outside an Aiea townhome subdivision two years ago has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county and several officers.
Pekelo Sanchez, 33, was sleeping in a stolen Dodge pickup truck on the morning of Feb. 11, 2017, when police, banging on the windows, ordered him and his 19-year-old female companion to exit the vehicle, according to the complaint.
“Awoken and startled by the sudden commotion,” Pekelo Sanchez was shot by police as he reached for the keys, the complaint states.
Police shot him a second time when he started the engine, the lawsuit alleges. The complaint claims Pekelo Sanchez was at this point so critically injured that his body began to “involuntarily move and operate the vehicle.”
But police provided a different account at the time, saying officers initially tried to remove Pekelo Sanchez and his companion from the truck by shattering the driver’ side rear window because he refused their orders to get out, according to news reports.
Sanchez then attempted to evade the scene, dragging a pair of officers across the parking lot, ramming the truck into two townhouses and a parked vehicle, according to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser report of the police account. That’s when officers opened fire, the newspaper reported.
Sanchez, whose criminal record included six felonies for drug charges and auto theft, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police had been called by the owner of a private parking space who said the truck and its two sleeping occupants were blocking his stall, according to the lawsuit.
The officers named in the lawsuit are Dylan Shatto, Marvin Parengit and Barbara Delaforce. In addition to wrongful death, the lawsuit claims unreasonable search and seizure, excessive force, violation of due process, assault and battery, failure to provide timely medical treatment and negligence.
“Prior to being shot, (Sanchez) posed no reasonable or credible threat of deadly force to defendant officers, nor to any other individual,” the lawsuit states.
Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman Michelle Yu declined to comment on the suit.
Attorney Aaron Wills, who is representing Iris Sanchez in the alleged wrongful death of her son, said he is still investigating the facts of the case and declined to comment on discrepancies between the lawsuit and the narrative provided by police.
“We just believe that there’s a severe lack-of-training issue that needs to be addressed at HPD,” Wills said. “What more recent shootings within the last several weeks have in common with our case is that it’s an unarmed man being shot by police officers.”
There have been two fatal officer-involved shootings so far in 2019 involving the HPD. Last year there were six. The shooting of Sanchez was one in a pair of fatal officer-involved shootings in 2017.
This is the eighth lawsuit alleging wrongful deaths caused by HPD officers since 2010, according to court records. One of them resulted in a $1.4 million taxpayer-funded settlement for the death of Aaron Torres, who was high on drugs and suffering from mental illness in 2012 when he was suffocated during a struggle with police.
By law, the nine members must include at least four former prosecutors, a representative from the attorney general’s office, former judges and at least one former high-ranking police officer.
The law requires them to look at the evidence and determine only whether an officer can be charged with a crime. If prosecutors decline to prosecute an officer, the panel’s findings are not made public.
The shooting death of 55-year-old Renie Cablay — a former correctional officer who Honolulu police said lunged twice with a large knife at a parole officer during a six-hour standoff — will be the first of several cases reviewed by the panel, which met for the first time last June.
Read the lawsuit here:
Stay Up To Date On The Coronavirus And Other Hawaii Issues
Not a subscription
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.