The Hawaii Law Enforcement Officer Independent Review Board ruled that a fatal police-involved shooting that occurred nearly two years ago was justified.
On Friday, the shooting review board released a recommendation not to prosecute the officers who were involved in the death of Dustin Spencer, 34, in December 2019.
“The board finds that the investigation was fairly conducted, and the use of deadly force by the law enforcement officer in this case was justified” under Hawaii law, according to the letter sent to Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steven Alm on Nov. 2, which was available on the board’s website on Friday.
The board determined that the Honolulu officers did not violate the law in the shooting which occurred following an across-town pursuit involving multiple officers and a police helicopter that ended at a Kalihi car dealership.
The board, which is made up of former police officers, judges, and prosecutors, can only review evidence and reports submitted by law enforcement agencies after an internal criminal investigation is completed.
Deliberations regarding the shooting of Spencer were done in closed-door sessions and the findings were released following the board’s latest meeting on Nov. 2.
The board, which has reviewed and released reports on 10 cases, has yet to recommend prosecution for any officer across the state.
According to the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office closing report, Spencer and another unnamed suspect were spotted by a former HPD officer covering their faces and acting “nervous” while they sat in a Honda parked at the Pearl City Sam’s Club.
The former officer then called HPD as the car with Spencer behind the wheel left the parking lot.
HPD officers nearby located the Honda a short time later on the shoulder of the Kamehameha Highway with its hazard lights on. The officers parked their unmarked police vehicle in front of the Honda and were told by dispatch that the license plate did not match the vehicle.
Three officers approached the Honda and called out that they were police before noticing that both Spencer and his passenger were covering their faces with masks and clothing, according to the prosecutor’s report.
The officers ordered Spencer to turn off the vehicle, but instead the car sped away triggering a brief pursuit that was called off due to the “hazardous maneuvers” Spencer was making.
Police caught up to the Honda as it traveled west on the Moanalua Freeway and observed the passenger run from the car.
The passenger, who has not been identified, was later detained. According the the prosecutor’s report, he thanked one of the officers for “not shooting me” and said Spencer told him that he was “not going back” when police originally stopped the car, referencing a federal warrant he had for violating probation.
Spencer was found a short time later at the intersection of North King Street and Middle Street, where he left the Honda and began running.
As he fled, an HPD sergeant and officer began chasing him and noticed that he was carrying a gun. They then heard Spencer fire the gun and started shooting back.
Spencer fell to the ground and dropped his gun, then picked it up and held it to his own head, according to the prosecutor’s report. He then got up and limped away.
More police officers arrived on the scene and took “rolling cover” behind a police car following Spencer.
The officer followed Spencer to the New City Nissan car dealership and shouted at him to drop the handgun, but instead Spencer pointed it in the officers’ direction.
“Fearing for his life and the other officer near him, Officer (redacted) fired multiple rounds from his handgun towards (Spencer) who fell to the ground,” the prosecutor’s report states.
Officers then administered first aid and transported Spencer to The Queen’s Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
In October 2020, the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney said that the officers and sergeant were justified in the shooting and declined to prosecute.
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