Nathaniel Naki was scheduled to appear in court for violating a restraining order the day after he died by police gunfire.

The man shot dead by police on Molokai Sunday was under two restraining orders from his parents, and court documents indicate he was homeless and mentally unwell. He was scheduled to appear in court Monday for a pretrial conference for violating one of the restraining orders.

Maui County police shot and killed 40-year-old Nathaniel Naki when they responded to a violation of a restraining order in Waialua.

Naki came toward them with a weapon, a police press release says. It was a machete, according to Maui County Council vice chair Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who represents Molokai.

One officer used his Taser on Naki, but it didn’t work, so they both fired their guns. Naki died at Molokai General Hospital.

East Molokai clouds Hawaii2. 14 july 2016
Maui County police shot and killed a man in East Molokai on Sunday. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2016)

The officers were placed on administrative leave and an investigation is underway, the official release says.

The Maui Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

The shooting marks what may be the first police killing on Molokai in years, and it highlights a lack of resources dedicated to people suffering from mental health crises.

A Troubled Final Two Months

Naki was arrested March 19 for violating a protective order against him that his mother filed. He pleaded not guilty two days later. The court issued a warrant to commit Naki to the Maui jail on March 21.

His mother, Julieann Naki, lived with Naki and her nine-year-old granddaughter, but she filed for a temporary restraining order against him Jan. 18 after a physical incident the day before involving Naki and her grandson, documents show.

Julieann wrote she was afraid because “Nathaniel isn’t in the right state of mind and he may come after next.” She expressed that he was “uncontrollable” and “unstable.”

The restraining order required that Nathaniel vacate the house.

Julieann Naki could not be reached for comment.

On April 12, his father Raymond Leimana Kaiwi Naki, wrote in a petition for a restraining order that Nathaniel was refusing to take his medication.

“People have been terrified by his actions. I need the help to enforce his medication and seek assistance to hospitalize,” Raymond wrote. “He refuses to take his medication and hurts the animals.” Raymond requested protection for his seven dogs. 

Raymond Naki could not be reached for comment.

The restraining order was approved two days later, stating that Nathaniel was now homeless in the Waialua or Honouliwai area.

Naki was in the vicinity of the Waialua Congregational Church on Sunday morning before the confrontation with police, Sen. Lynn DeCoite, who also represents Molokai, said.

But more details have not yet emerged.

“Whatever triggered this remains to be seen,” she said.

The church did not respond to a call for comment.

Nathaniel was scheduled to appear in court Monday for violating the restraining order against his mother.

“Today he was supposed to be coming back for his pretrial conference appearance, but we couldn’t get around to that,” said Andres Tobar, a deputy public defender assigned to represent him.

‘People Have Their Hands Tied’

Rawlins-Fernandez and DeCoite could not recall police ever having shot someone on the island before.

“I am actually shocked,” DeCoite said.

Both elected officials said that people facing mental health problems suffer from a lack of resources and a reluctance within the small island community to discuss such issues at all.

“Tempers have run high,” said Sen. Lynn DeCoite, who represents Molokai. (Provided)

“If it’s police with a gun and a taser, and that’s the only service we have for safety,” Rawlins-Fernandez said, “What do we expect will happen?”

In an ideal world, Naki’s history of restraining orders might have allowed him to get support, but such targeted help is scant on Molokai, Rawlins-Fernandez said.

“If there’s a pattern like that, because we don’t have crisis intervention on Molokai, people have their hands tied for what services they can seek for their own safety,” she said.

“If they’re a harm to themselves, they could be sent to Oahu. If they’re a harm to others, they could be arrested,” Rawlins-Fernandez said. “But that is the extent of the services we have.”

“People have their hands tied for what services they can seek for their own safety,” said Maui County Council vice chair Keani Rawlins-Fernandez. (Provided)

Molokai residents don’t talk much about mental health to begin with, DeCoite said.

“They remain silent,” she said. “The community needs to come forward and say, ‘Hey, we have an issue.’ If we want to make sure this never happens again, we have to talk about it.”

About 15 Maui County police officers are assigned to the 38-mile-long island, according to DeCoite and Rawlins-Fernandez. Some 7,000 people live there. Around half of the officers are born and raised on Molokai, DeCoite estimated.

“Most of them are local and the ones that are not tend to be involved with community sports. Eventually everybody knows each other,” she said.

“We’ve tried really hard to try to have more of our police born and raised on Molokai. It helps with relationships,” Rawlins-Fernandez said.

Rawlins-Fernandez remembered Naki as the boy who was a class above her in high school.

Naki of Kaunakakai was “super smart,” DeCoite said.

He knew “all the stats of sports that you do not know,” she said.

“He was like a typical Mana’e boy,” Rawlins-Fernandez said, referring to the east end of Molokai. “Chill, funny, fun to cruise with.”

His family hunted, fished and tended the fishponds on that side of the island, she said. But she wasn’t close with him and only saw him from a distance in recent years.

Naki’s death is emotional for the small island of Molokai, DeCoite said.

“Tempers have run high,” she said, adding that Naki and at least one of the officers knew each other.

And the memory of the shooting won’t be something the officers will be able to escape on Molokai.

“It’s something that they’ll have to live with, and if they plan to stay on Molokai, it’s something that they’ll likely be associated with for the rest of their lives,” Rawlins-Fernandez said.

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