After an almost yearlong investigation, the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office determined that the SWAT officer who shot and killed a man in his Kakaako apartment was justified in his actions and will not be charged.

Prosecutor Steve Alm said Thursday that the police attempted all available de-escalation avenues before resorting to deadly force during their three hour standoff with the 33-year-old man last year.

The standoff began at approximately 1:40 p.m. on Aug. 27, when Brandon Ventura called 911 from his 15th-floor Kamakee Vista apartment at 1065 Kawaiahao Street.

“He said his girlfriend had broken up with him, and he had a loaded gun to his head,” Alm said during a press conference.

Alm also said that Ventura told the operator he hadn’t taken his medications that day, and the operator informed him that help was on its way.

The Honolulu prosecutor’s office found the police shooting death of a man who had barricaded himself in his Kakaako apartment last year was justified. Hawaii News Now/2021

HPD patrol officers arrived outside the apartment door about 10 minutes later. Their attempts to engage were initially met with no response before Ventura – who remained inside the apartment – told the officers that they could help him by shooting him, according to Alm.

“‘Fire on me, or I’ll fire on you,’” Ventura was quoted as saying. That prompted officers to evacuate residents from that floor of the building, Alm said.

Alm explained that three people who knew Ventura personally tried to talk him down, including a bar manager who had been staying at Ventura’s apartment, a friend from their time at Leeward Community College and a police sergeant who’d been friends with Ventura’s father for over three decades.

The bar manager was in the apartment as the incident started, and successfully requested to be let out of the apartment when Ventura declined to turn himself in, according to the investigation report.

The report later says that the other friend and the sergeant talked to Ventura on the phone, and that around 4 p.m. Ventura agreed to leave the apartment. But he didn’t do so. 

Instead Ventura told the family friend in a follow-up call that he “had a round in the chamber, was going to shoot himself, and would come out in a body bag,” according to Alm.

When Ventura opened the door again, Alm said, he was holding a pistol to his head. 

One of the SWAT officers who had taken over the scene “suggested Mr. Ventura remove his finger from the trigger and lower the pistol; (and) he slowly complied,” Alm said.

The officer then shot Ventura’s thigh with a less-lethal bean bag round and rushed to grab the pistol from his hand, said Alm, marking the beginning of a scuffle as officers entered the apartment.

Ventura refused to drop the pistol, and at some point during the struggle its barrel pointed toward the SWAT officer’s face, causing another officer to shoot Ventura once in the head, killing him, Alm said.

The name of the officer is blacked out in the report.

“There’s been a long history of HPD using less-lethal weapons,” said Alm, referencing a 1997 standoff with attorney George Parker III that had also ended with officers shooting a less-lethal bullet to immobilize him, in that case ending the conflict without fatalities. 

This incident wasn’t Ventura’s first encounter with HPD. 

According to the report, Ventura had been arrested 16 times before, including convictions for abusing a family member, third degree assault, driving under the influence, and carrying a deadly weapon. In 2018, the report says, HPD officers responded to another barricade situation in which Ventura was involved.

And Ventura had been the victim of a stabbing in 2015 by 21-year-old Isaiah Perry-Pruski, his girlfriend at the time’s former partner, according to Hawaii News Now. 

A blood sample taken during the Ventura’s autopsy showed the presence of alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, and clonazepam, which is commonly used to treat seizures under the brand name KlonoPIN and has been deemed by the FDA to increase the risk of suicidal ideation and behavior

The report also referenced that Ventura had expressed suicidal intentions in four previous HPD-involved incidents. 

The pistol he brandished wasn’t registered under his name, and the Prosecutor’s Office said it doesn’t know how he obtained it. 

Help power our public service journalism

As a local newsroom, Civil Beat has a unique public service role in times of crisis.

That’s why we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content, so we can get vital information out to everyone, from all communities.

We are deploying a significant amount of our resources to covering the Maui fires, and your support ensures that we can pivot when these types of emergencies arise.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help power our nonprofit newsroom.

About the Author