The man who died in police custody Wednesday was identified by the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office as Isaiah Pama, a 28-year-old Kaneohe resident who left behind a wife and three children.

Pama is the second person to die in the process of getting arrested this year, at a time when police-involved deaths are under increasing scrutiny nationally. About 10,000 people marched in Honolulu in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality and systemic racism.

But his wife Noelle Pama said she doesn’t want her husband’s death to be used by the movement.

Isaiah Pama, 28, died Wednesday. He was in police custody. Courtesy: Noelle Pama

“What happened with my husband is really sad and it had nothing to do with police brutality,” Pama told Civil Beat Friday.

“The police showed my husband nothing but compassion,” she said. “In my heart and in my soul I don’t believe that there was any foul play.” 

She doesn’t know yet how he died. Charlotte Carter, an investigator at the medical examiner’s office, said Friday that his cause and manner of death have not yet been determined.

Michelle Yu, a spokeswoman for the Honolulu Police Department, said in a statement earlier this week that around 9 a.m. Wednesday, an HPD officer responded to a report of an argument on Ka Hanahou Circle in which a man — Isaiah Pama — was in a truck that didn’t belong to him.

She said Pama was “combative and punching and kicking the truck’s interior before he slid out of the vehicle and began struggling with the officer and the bystander.”

Isaiah Pama and his wife Noelle smile in an Instagram selfie. Courtesy: Noelle Pama

Officers handcuffed and shackled Pama and he continued to struggle as they called an ambulance, Yu said.

Pama was sitting “on the ground and leaning against one of the vehicles when he became unresponsive,” she said. He died at the scene.

There is no body camera footage of the incident and Yu said the three officers involved have been offered paid administrative leave.

An administrative investigation into Pama’s death has started. There are also three investigations into Pama’s behavior for “unauthorized entry into motor vehicle, criminal property damage, and disorderly conduct investigations,” Yu said.

Noelle Pama told Civil Beat her husband wasn’t a drug addict or a criminal. She believes he was having a mental breakdown. She said her husband fell asleep in his uncle’s truck and woke up and was confused about where he was.

“My husband was a hardworking father, a loving husband, just an all-around sweet man,” she said. “He didn’t deserve to die this way.”

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