Brandon Ventura’s father says his son needed a crisis negotiator not a SWAT team after he called 911 to say he was going to kill himself.

The father of a Kakaako man killed by police responding to his 911 call is suing the city and the four officers involved more than a year after the prosecutor’s office determined that the shooting had been justified.

Brandon Ventura, 33, was killed on Aug. 27, 2021, after a three-hour standoff that began when police were called to his 15th-floor Kamakee Vista apartment after he told 911 he wanted to shoot himself because his girlfriend had broken up with him.

The lawsuit, brought by lawyers Myles Breiner and Sean Fitzsimmons on behalf of Dean Ventura, says the officers failed to use a crisis negotiator with a mentally ill subject and fired the fatal shot when the younger Ventura was surrendering.

That escalation violated HPD’s use of force policy, Fitzsimmons said in an interview.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of negligence and assault and battery.

“They escalated the situation when all indications should have shown to them that Mr. Ventura was going to peacefully surrender,” Fitzsimmons said.

Brandon Ventura was killed during a standoff with police in his Kakaako apartment. The Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office declined to charge the officers involved in the shooting, saying it was justified. Ventura’s father filed a civil lawsuit alleging negligence and assault and battery. (Hawaii News Now/2021)

That claim runs counter to findings by the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which concluded after a yearlong investigation that the officer who shot and killed Ventura was justified in his actions and would not be charged.

The police attempted all available de-escalation avenues before resorting to deadly force, Prosecutor Steve Alm said in announcing the investigation results in August 2022.

The officers’ names have yet to be released and were redacted in Alm’s investigation. Fitzsimmons did not know them but said they would emerge in discovery.

HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu declined a request for an interview or to identify the four officers involved “due to the lawsuit,” she said. Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s office did not respond to a request for an interview.

In the lawsuit, Fitzsimmons cited a provision pertaining to de-escalation in HPD’s use of force policy that reads, “When reasonable and safe under the totality of the circumstances, officers shall attempt to de-escalate and stabilize with time and space so that more options and resources might be made available.”

“In this incident, they did the exact opposite,” Fitzsimmons said. “They constrained his space and truncated the time he was afforded.”

Fitzsimmons decided to file suit just before the two-year statute of limitations would have expired.

The lawsuit describes Ventura as a man in crisis with suicidal ideations that had surfaced in five previous encounters with police.

On the 911 call, Ventura said he hadn’t taken his medication, according to the lawsuit. Police arrived 11 minutes later.

HPD called for a crisis negotiator and asked Ventura to come out, but he refused.

Instead, almost two hours in, four officers from the Specialized Services Division, Honolulu’s equivalent of a SWAT team, came to confront him. One officer carried an M4 rifle, another wielded a 40 mm foam-tipped munitions launcher, and a third held a ballistic shield and a pistol. The fourth officer, known as a “contact officer” was there to talk, but he was not a crisis negotiator, according to the lawsuit.

The contact officer got Ventura to throw his knife and ammunition magazine outside, but he still had a gun, according to the suit.

Ventura, pictured at least six years before his death, had prior encounters with police in which he expressed suicidal thoughts. (Hawaii News Now)

It also said that just after 4:30 p.m., Ventura stepped outside, pressing the gun to his temple. The SSD officer with the launcher asked him to take his finger off the trigger and lower the pistol. Ventura did so.

Then the same officer “inexplicably” shot Ventura with a non-lethal foam round, according to the lawsuit. He rushed Ventura and grabbed his hand that held the gun while the other officers pushed Ventura back inside and pinned him to the kitchen counter.

The “high cover officer” armed with an M4 rifle shot Ventura in the head from five to 10 feet away, according to the lawsuit.

“It appears that the SWAT team got impatient, perhaps,” Fitzsimmons said.

Fitzsimmons said he was surprised at how quickly the shooting happened relative to other recent barricade situations where negotiations proceeded for hours and no one died.

“Mr. Ventura, Brandon, was shot and killed only two and a half hours after HPD even arrived to the scene,” he said. “He was shot and killed only one hour after the SWAT team showed up.” 

Read the lawsuit here:

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