A distraught woman called 911 reporting a man in her Nuuanu residence before Honolulu police officers arrived, ordered the man to the ground and eventually shot him dead, according to call audio released by the Honolulu Police Department on Friday afternoon.
The man was Lindani Myeni, a 29-year-old father of two from South Africa who lives in the neighborhood. His death, the second shooting by Honolulu police within a two-week period, is under investigation by HPD and the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s office.
In the more than 10-minute call from April 14, the woman acknowledged, when asked by a dispatcher, that the man was unarmed.
The call begins with the dispatcher asking for the caller’s address, and a woman says, “Please leave!” Voices can be heard in the background.
The woman gives her address and her name, but police redacted the name from the 911 tape.
“Someone entered my house,” the woman says.
“Do you know who they are?” the dispatcher says.
The woman, who has a thick accent, says something about South Africa, where Myeni is from. The dispatcher again asks whether the woman knows him.
“I don’t know this man,” the woman responds. “He’s in the house.”
Throughout the call, the woman is very upset and crying. Later in the call, she tells the dispatcher she is “terrified.”
The dispatcher asks numerous questions, some over and over again, as she tries to get the woman to provide a description of the man.
The woman describes him as Black and that he’s wearing a black T-shirt. She says that he is wandering in the house and that she doesn’t know him.
Finally, she reports that the man is going outside and that he is stealing a car.
When officers arrive, the woman yells, sobbing, “That’s him!” – assertions that are also recorded on body camera footage that HPD released the day after the shooting.
The 911 audio also picks up the officer yelling at Myeni, “Get on the ground!”
The tape also includes the sound of gunshots.
“Oh my god,” the dispatcher says and then says “shots fired” to someone.
Myeni’s death has sparked protests in Honolulu and also in the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, one of South Africa’s capital cities. Myeni, a former rugby player, was royalty in the Zulu kingdom, according to his wife.
South Africa’s Kwa-Zulu Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said this week that the “objectionable behaviour” by Honolulu police should be condemned.
“As a province, we are saddened that one of our own countrymen has been caught up in the ongoing spate of attacks by (law enforcement authorities) which are apparently targeted at Black people in the United States,” he said. “Investigations must be thoroughly conducted, and no stone left unturned. Justice must be served in this case.”
Zikalala even called on President Joe Biden to intervene in the case, South African outlet News24 reported.
“We know that U.S. President Joe Biden has an illustrious history as a crusader for human rights and justice,” Zikalala said. “We are confident that if he could intervene in the case and start asking questions, we would start to see some progress.”
Myeni’s remains were scheduled to be returned to South Africa on Friday.
Protests in Honolulu have criticized HPD for the deaths of Myeni and Iremamber Sykap, a 16-year-old Micronesian boy who was killed the previous week. The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii said their deaths, and the deaths of others killed by HPD, exemplify the need for police reform.
The organization is calling on HPD to release the names of the officers involved in both shootings and is urging the Hawaii Law Enforcement Officer Independent Review Board, a volunteer group that has been inactive, to immediately investigate the deaths.
Myeni’s widow, Lindsay Myeni, has already filed a wrongful death lawsuit. Her complaint alleges that HPD officers negligently responded to the call when they approached Myeni without lights or sirens, shined lights in his face and didn’t announce themselves as police until after they had already shot him.
Neither officials nor Myeni’s wife have been able to explain why Myeni was at the home, which has operated as a vacation rental.
Acting Deputy Chief Allan Nagata said that officers shot Myeni after he attacked three officers and injured them, including one who was hospitalized with serious injuries. The department said an officer attempted to subdue Myeni with a Taser but that it was ineffective.
Civil Beat has requested all police reports and use of force reports related to this incident. HPD declined, stating that the documents are not yet complete.
Civil Beat also requested the full, unedited body camera footage from the officers involved after Nagata stated the version released publicly was incomplete. HPD has not yet responded to that request.
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