The Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney has opened an independent investigation into three police officers accused of running a car off the road, causing a crash that seriously injured six people in Makaha in September.

Honolulu Police Department Interim Chief Rade Vanic told the Honolulu Police Commission on Wednesday that the HPD unit that investigates allegations of crimes committed by officers will be closing the case so it can be turned over to the prosecutor’s office.

“This disposition of this case will be closed as ‘exceptional means’ and turned over to an outside agency, which is the prosecutor’s office,” Vanic said. “Although the criminal case has been turned over to the prosecutor’s office and is in the process of being administratively closed, the administrative investigation is still ongoing.”

Makaha car crash
The Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office has opened an independent investigation into a crash allegedly caused by HPD officers. Courtesy: Michael Stern/2021

All three officers involved, identified in a lawsuit against the city as Joshua Nahulu, Erik Smith and Jake Bartolome, remain on desk duty with their police authority restricted, Vanic said.

Vanic said that the department’s Criminal Investigation Section, which had been handling the case, labeled a Class B felony, turned it over to the prosecuting attorney’s office in late November following the crash on Sept. 12, 2021.  Last month, the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s office notified HPD that they would be conducting an investigation into the incident.

The prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the investigation.

The incident reportedly began after the three officers broke up a party at Maili Beach Park. As people left the party, officers reportedly followed a Honda Civic packed with six people as it left the area with Jonaven Perkins-Sinapati, 30, behind the wheel.

Surveillance footage taken at a nearby 7-Eleven and provided to Civil Beat by attorney Michael Stern, who is representing the five passengers in the car, shows the charcoal-gray police 4Runner with its lights off closely pursuing the Honda on Farrington Highway. Seconds later, two cruisers are also seen following the Honda with their lights off.

A short time later, the Honda veered off the road, struck a concrete curb, collided with trees and continued over a concrete wall at the intersection of Orange Street and Farrington Highway, according to Stern and an HPD report detailing the crash.

Five of the occupants were ejected during the crash, which left Perkins-Sinapati on life support and Dayten Gouviea paralyzed from the waist down. Passengers Trestin Matua and Justus Sinipati Mason both fractured their spines in the crash and Krypton Afakasi suffered lacerations to his eyes, Stern said.

Mason later told Civil Beat that the police 4Runner bumped their vehicle twice before it crashed.

That claim was echoed by others witnesses at the site of the crash.

Newly released body camera footage from a female police officer who arrived on the scene shortly after the crash shows one witness seeming to corroborate Mason’s account.

“The two cops, three cops chasing ’em,” the witness, identified by Hawaii News Now as Anthony Charles said. “The cop wen nudge ’em.”

Others at the scene urged responding officers to find out what “really happened.”

The officers are also accused of driving off after the collision instead of administering aid. Approximately a minute after the police vehicles are seen chasing the car on surveillance video, they are seen returning to the camera’s view on Makaha Valley Road after the time of the crash.

Attorney Eric Seitz filed a lawsuit on behalf of Dayten Gouveia and his parents on Sept. 21 naming the City and County of Honolulu and all three officers as defendants.

Attorney Michael Stern said he plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of the four passengers he is representing in the coming weeks.

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