Jonaven Perkins-Sinapati has been in a vegetative state for weeks following a horrific crash that his family and lawyer say was another encounter in a years-long feud with a Honolulu police officer.
Perkins-Sinapati, 35, was one of five people ejected from a car that crashed in Makaha after police allegedly ran the vehicle off the road as it left a party on Sept. 12.
Now, Perkins-Sinapati’s nephew, Justus Sinapati Mason, 20, who was in the passenger seat of the car, says the officers kept their lights off as they followed the vehicle before eventually hitting them twice and causing the crash.
“We felt this bump and I looked at my uncle and he tried to correct the wheel,” Sinapati Mason told Civil Beat. “And then we felt an extra push and my uncle couldn’t control the vehicle. We were kind of drifting and hit a ditch. That’s when we spun out.”
Following the crash, the three officers who were pursuing the car left the scene and did not immediately provide medical assistance to anyone involved in the crash, according to Sinapati Mason.
That’s also the allegation in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Dayten Gouveia, a 14-year-old boy who was also ejected and is now paralyzed from the waist down.
“The (police) 4Runner took off,” Sinapati Mason said. “When the 4Runner hit us it kept going straight and left the scene.”
HPD has not released the names of the officers that have been suspended and the incident is currently under investigation.
“The department has opened criminal administrative investigations into what preceded the collision in Mahaka,” HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu wrote in an email. “Three officers have had their police powers removed. Two have three years of service and the third has 15 years of service. All are assigned to District 8 (Kapolei) patrol.”
But one of the officers has been identified by the family as Officer Joshua Nahulu, who family members say Perkins-Sinapati has encountered several times in previous years.
“We’re going to show a relationship between him and the driver that goes back years — the policeman, the driver and his family,” Michael Green, the attorney representing Perkins-Sinapati, said. “There’s been a vendetta going back for years.”
A motor vehicle accident report obtained by Civil Beat shows Nahulu investigated Perkins-Sinapati in connection with a motor vehicle crash with another police officer in July 2018.
Multiple witnesses at both the party at Maili Beach Park and the scene of the crash reported seeing Nahulu at both locations along with two other officers.
“Honestly in 35 years I’ve never seen anything like this.” — Attorney Michael Stern
When Jasmine Teixeira and her boyfriend, Jonaven’s brother John Sinapati, arrived on the scene, they saw Nahulu. He was the same officer who had broken up a party they attended hours earlier, Teixeira said.
“He had told us that we couldn’t be there, we couldn’t be at the scene, that he didn’t know who was in the car,” Teixeira said. “But prior to that we had a party that night. He was there because the cops were called.”
Following the Sept. 12 incident, a report published on the HPD website said that the crash occurred after the vehicle “lost control, veered right off the roadway, strikes the concrete curb, and travels through an open lot” before colliding with trees and continuing over a concrete wall. That report has since been removed from the HPD website.
However, Teixeira, Perkins-Sinapati’s girlfriend Brittany Miyake, and Sinapati Mason offered a different story, which began when Nahulu and two other male officers showed up at their beach party. The group began to disperse and Gouveia along with four others got into Miyake’s car with Perkins-Sinapati behind the wheel.
Once they left, the officers began to follow them with their lights off, Sinapati Mason said, adding that he saw the police 4Runner drive through a red light to continue tailing them.
As Perkins-Sinapati continued driving, the weight of the packed car — with six people inside — prompted him to avoid speed bumps in the road by going around them, according to Miyake and Sinapati Mason.
“If (the officer) was trying to pull them over, he should have pulled them over by then already,” Miyake said. “With all of them in the car, they couldn’t go over each speed bump, so they went around each speed bump and the car that was following him had his lights off and didn’t pull them over for those violations, so he wasn’t trying to pull them over.”
There was no way to avoid the final speed bump in the road, so Perkins-Sinapati drove over it, according to Miyake. The passengers in the car looked back and saw the police vehicle right behind them, according to Sinapati Mason.
“I looked in the rearview mirror and I saw that the 4Runner had launched the bump,” Sinapati Mason said, “and in a split second I look in the rearview mirror again and it’s right behind us.”
Then the police car hit them, causing the accident, he said.
Five of the six occupants in the car were ejected during the crash. Gouveia and Perkins-Sinapati were rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Three other passengers were taken to the hospital in serious condition.
Since the crash, Gouveia’s condition has slightly improved and he has been able to regain minimal motion in his upper body, Eric Seitz, the attorney for Gouveia’s family, said.
Doctors say Perkins-Sinapati may remain in a vegetative state for months, according to Green.
Attorney Michael Stern, who is representing Sinapati Mason and the three other occupants of the car, said that one of his clients suffered fractured ribs, a fractured right arm and other injuries. Another client suffered a fractured spine and has fractured ribs, bruised lungs and may lose sight in his left eye.
“He had shattered glass that went in his eye and face, all over his body actually, and the eye was split in half so they had to sew it together,” Stern said. “So I’m assuming there’s not going to be very good, or any, sight after this.”
A lawsuit has already been filed by Seitz on behalf of Gouveia and his parents. Green is representing Perkins-Sinapati and has said he will be seeking damages against the city as well. Stern said he will be filing a lawsuit in the coming weeks, too.
“Honestly in 35 years I’ve never seen anything like this,” Stern said. “I’ve seen a lot of horrific accidents, but nothing where basically the police cause it, then try to cover it up, then try to harass the family.”
In the weeks following the crash, Perkins-Sinapati’s family members and others involved with the crash have been contacted by HPD officers, Stern and Miyake said. Perkins-Sinapati’s sister was stopped by police who inquired about the condition of her brother, according to Stern. Other occupants of the car have also been visited by officers, according to Miyake.
“They asked what happened, what are the cops names, maybe just trying to see what we know and, you know, what our story is,” Miyake said.
As of Oct. 1, the three officers remain on restricted duty, according to Yu.
Once the HPD’s Professional Standards Office is finished investigating the crash, the case will be turned over to the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney, Steven Alm.
“Once their investigation is finished we will review it, determine whether more investigation is necessary, and ultimately determine whether charges are warranted,” Matthew Dvonch, special counsel to Alm’s office, said in a statement. “Since the matter is still under active investigation, we won’t be able to comment further on it.”
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