A second lawsuit accusing Honolulu police officers of running a car off the road, causing a crash that resulted in severe injuries, has been filed against three police officers and the city.

Attorney Michael Stern filed the complaint Friday on behalf of four of the six occupants in the Honda that crashed in Makaha on Sept. 12. Surveillance footage taken at a nearby 7-Eleven shows a charcoal-gray police 4Runner with its lights off closely pursuing the Honda on Farrington Highway moments before the crash. Two police cruisers also are seen on the video tailing the Honda with their lights off.

The lawsuit also accuses the officers of leaving the scene of the crash and failing to provide aid.

The crash occurred at the intersection of Orange Street and Farrington Highway. Stern’s clients — Trenstin Matuu, Justus Sinapati Mason and two minors who were not named — suffered injuries that included fractured spines, fractured ribs and eye lacerations.

“It’s amazing that nobody died,” Stern said, adding that one of his clients is experiencing severe memory issues and post-traumatic stress disorder that began after the crash.

Makaha Crash
The crash at the corner of Farrington Highway and Orange Street occurred after a high-speed police chase. Hawaii News Now/2021

Three officers were named as defendants — Joshua Nahulu, Jake Bartolome, and Erik Smith. They also were named as defendants in a lawsuit filed in September by attorney Eric Seitz on behalf of Dayten Gouveia, another passenger in the Honda who was paralyzed in the crash.

The complaint alleges that the officers conspired to prepare false reports about the crash, which they characterized as a “single car accident” without making any reference to the high-speed chase that preceded it.

The chase began after the officers broke up a party at Maili Beach Park.

According to the lawsuit, the 4Runner not only had its lights and sirens off during the chase but also bumped the vehicle twice before it veered off the road, struck a concrete curb, collided with trees and continued over a concrete wall.

Perkins-Sinapati’s nephew, Justus Sinapati Mason, who was in the passenger seat of the car, gave a similar account during a previous interview.

All three officers involved in the crash remained on desk duty with their police authority restricted, HPD Interim Chief Rade Vanic said during a March Honolulu Police Commission meeting.

Vanic also said that the investigation into the incident has been handed over to the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office, which will conduct an independent investigation into the officers involved. The case previously was being internally investigated by HPD as a Class B felony.

“There’s no doubt that these three officers violated everything imaginable,” Stern said. “I believe they clearly committed crimes.”

The lawsuit also names the parents of the four occupants as plaintiffs.

“I think that all of the parents continue to have emotional distress,” Stern said. “I don’t think these children are the same at all anymore.”

Support Civil Beat during the season of giving.

As a small nonprofit newsroom, our mission is powered by readers like you. But did you know that less than 1% of readers donate to Civil Beat?

Give today and support local journalism that helps to inform, empower and connect.

About the Author