The department had updated its use-of-force policy to prevent officers from shooting at people in cars.

A Honolulu police officer violated his department’s use-of-force policy when he shot a man before arresting him in 2021, a lawsuit filed Wednesday says.

In May 2021, when trying to arrest a suspect who was driving a vehicle, Christopher Goshi, a plainclothes Crime Reduction Unit officer, allegedly remained in the vehicle’s path and then, once it crashed into a concrete post, shot the driver five times, according to the complaint.

The Honolulu Police Department had updated its use-of-force policy two months earlier, requiring officers to get out of the way and not shoot at moving vehicles, the lawsuit says.

A moving vehicle on its own is not a threat that justifies the use of deadly force,” the policy states. “Officers shall move out of the path of a vehicle instead of discharging a firearm at it.”

In security footage of the HPD shooting on May 25, 2021, an officer approaches the vehicle driven by Dion Kitzmiller.

The exceptions: if a person in the vehicle poses a threat of deadly force with something other than the car, if the officer can’t get to safety, if the vehicle is causing “mass human casualties” or if its movement “poses a threat that justifies the use of deadly force.”

Eric Seitz, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, argues that Goshi and other officers must not have received adequate training after the policy was updated.

“If they’d been trained properly, deadly force is just not necessary,” Seitz said in an interview.

The lawsuit alleges the following narrative:

Plainclothes Crime Reduction Unit officers were attempting to arrest Dion Kitzmiller for outstanding warrants in a Kalihi parking garage just before midnight May 25, 2021. HPD later said that the warrants were for charges including kidnapping, terroristic threatening, a firearms offense and abuse of a household member.

Five of the officers ran toward Kitzmiller with their weapons drawn, but he didn’t know the plainclothes officers were police, and he attempted to leave.

Kitzmiller tried to exit the garage but it was blocked by at least two unmarked police vehicles. He drove into both, then reversed into one of them.

“Clearly they had a right to arrest him. But I don’t think they had any right to use deadly force.”

Attorney Eric Seitz

When Kitzmiller tried to get out of his vehicle, an officer approached and starting punching him through the open window. The vehicle “then lurched forward” and crashed into a concrete pillar.

Meanwhile, Goshi and the other CRU officers weren’t equipped with a less lethal option than a firearm, like a Taser.

Ten officers got out of the way of Kitzmiller’s moving vehicle, but Goshi “placed himself directly” in the vehicle’s path with his gun drawn. Once the car was stopped, Goshi shot five times through the front passenger window, almost killing Kitzmiller.

An officer then pulled him out of the car and a group of officers then began kicking and hitting him. At one point, an officer punched and struck him at least 19 times with “what appeared to be a flashlight.”

Kitzmiller survived after undergoing surgery for three gunshot wounds to his torso. He was later charged with criminal property damage and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, both felonies, and misdemeanor reckless endangering for firing a gun. He pleaded not guilty, and is scheduled to go to trial in October.

At a press conference soon after the shooting, then-acting Chief Rade Vanic said that Kitzmiller was “exiting his vehicle with a gun brandished in his hand and pointing toward the direction of the officer.”

The lawsuit says Kitzmiller was unarmed.

“Clearly they had a right to arrest him,” Seitz said. “But I don’t think they had any right to use deadly force.”

HPD and the mayor’s office did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Kitzmiller’s lawsuit is one of many against HPD officers who shot at people in vehicles. Those include the case of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap, who was shot and killed by police in 2021, and that of 26-year-old Kyle Thomas, whom police killed in Mililani in 2019.

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