Before he was shot by police on Wednesday, a man entered a Nuuanu home and exhibited “odd behavior” before returning to his vehicle and later assaulting three responding police officers, Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said Thursday.
The information at this point is preliminary and the situation is under investigation, the chief said.
Ballard described what happened this way at a press conference Thursday:
At 8:10 p.m., police received a call about a burglary in progress at a Coelho Way residence. When “Officer 1” arrived, the 911 caller identified a man sitting in a vehicle as a person who had been in her home.
The suspect got out of the car and began to walk toward “Officer 2” who arrived on the scene.
Officer 1, a corporal, ordered the suspect to stop and get on the ground. “The suspect then turned and charged at Officer 1, punching him several times. Officer 2 tried to get the suspect off of Officer 1.”
A third officer then arrived and deployed his Taser, but “it was ineffective.”
“The suspect then charged at Officer 3 and punched him before running and charging at Officer 1 again. Officer 1 then fired a single round, but the suspect continued and tackled Officer 1, straddling him, and began punching Officer 1 again.”
Officer 2 fired three rounds at the suspect, who then fell to the ground.
“This all happened in less than 1 minute from Officer 1’s arrival,” Ballard said.
The officers administered first aid to the suspect and the man was transported to the hospital in critical condition, Ballard said. He died at the hospital.
The three responding officers were also taken to the hospital for multiple injures, she said. Officer 1 has multiple facial fractures, a concussion and injuries to his arms and legs. The officer, who has worked for HPD for 23 years, remains hospitalized.
Officer 2 also suffered multiple injuries to his body, arms and legs, Ballard said. Officer 3 had a concussion and multiple abrasions to the body, arm and legs, she said. Both officers received medical treatment but have since been released. They have 18 and 10 years of service with HPD, respectively, Ballard said.
Ballard declined to identify the officers, citing “privacy purposes.” The suspect is a 29-year-old Black man who “does not appear to have a criminal record,” she said.
“I think that what we need to remember is this had nothing to do with race. It had to do with behavior,” the chief said. “And the fact that this person seriously injured the officers and their lives were in jeopardy.”
The three officers were wearing body cameras, and the footage will be reviewed for possible public release, Ballard said. HPD’s new Tasers do not have cameras on them as older models did, she said.
According to the chief, the suspect arrived in Nuuanu by car, walked into someone else’s home and behaved strangely.
“He sat down, took off his shoes and was talking, trying to talk to the people, but they were very upset and trying to get him out, and then he eventually walked out,” Ballard said. “They didn’t know who he was … The homeowners were very shaken up and very upset.”
The man who was killed has not been officially identified by police or the Honolulu Medical Examiner, but in a statement his wife identified him as Lindani Myeni.
Lindsay Myeni said her husband is from South Africa, which is where they met while she was there on a religious mission. They have two young children.
Lindani Myeni enjoyed playing rugby, singing and going to church with his wife, according to a write-up about the couple for their engagement in 2017. The couple was just married in February 2020, according to their Facebook pages.
In a statement, Lindsay Myeni said she believes race played a role in her husband’s death.
“He was gentle and loving and the best father and husband I could’ve asked for,” she said. “There’s no reason this should have happened. I’m white and I guarantee he would not have been shot had he been white.”
She said she didn’t know why her husband might have been at the Nuuanu residence or what he was doing that might have resulted in the police being called. She said that the family lives up the street from where the shooting happened.
“He’d just left the house to clear his mind and was on his way home at 7:52 p.m.,” she said. “I have no clue how things escalated to death by 8:30. It makes no sense.”
Myeni was set to undergo his green card interview next week, which the whole family was excited about, his wife said.
The Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office reviews all shootings by Honolulu police officers, Ballard said.
The state Law Enforcement Officer Independent Review Board is also supposed to review officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths, but has not met in over a year and only reviewed one case since it was formed in 2017.
Wednesday’s shooting occurred less than two weeks after Honolulu officers shot and killed a 16-year-old during pursuit of an allegedly stolen vehicle.
At the press conference, Ballard said officials have to be careful about releasing information about that case because the deceased suspect and some of his passengers are juveniles who have special privacy protections.
There are over 50 body-worn cameras that have to be reviewed in that case, she said. She said police will work with prosecutors to determine what footage can be released once the investigation is finished.
HPD’s use of force policy states that deadly force may only be used when an officer reasonably believes it is necessary to defend their life or the life of another person who is “in immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury.”
But when asked about the rationale of the officer who shot Sykap, Ballard cited the teen’s criminal history.
“I think we explained it last time, because these folks had, 20 minutes before, had done an armed robbery with two guns, previous, noon that same day, a purse snatching, so I think that pretty much kind of answers that question,” she said.
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