The lawsuit says body cam footage shows Nathaniel Naki was not acting in a threatening manner when he was shot to death.

Family members of Nathaniel Naki, a 39-year-old Molokai man killed by police in April, have sued Maui County and the officers involved in federal court, alleging he was shot “without provocation.”


Naki’s mother, Julieann Naki, and six other relatives claimed that the police officers wrongfully caused Naki’s death, acted maliciously and negligently, deprived him of his civil rights, intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the family and hadn’t been adequately trained by the department.

Officers were responding to a temporary restraining order violation when they shot Naki on April 30. Separate court documents indicate that Naki was homeless and mentally unwell.

Partial body camera footage released by the Maui Police Department at the time showed Naki holding a machete under his armpit. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, says that footage “provides proof that the machete was not being wielded in a threatening manner.”

MPD has not released the complete footage showing Naki being shot and what immediately preceded it, or an autopsy report. Attempts by Civil Beat to acquire the full footage and autopsy report have been unsuccessful.

The Maui Police Department released partial body camera footage showing what preceded Naki’s death, but the circumstances of the shooting have yet to be disclosed. (Courtesy: Maui Police Department)

Since Naki’s death, the family has been kept in the dark by the county and police, their lawyer Bill Harrison said in an interview. They hope that to get a full understand of what happened through the legal discovery process, he said.

“It has come to a point that we decided that it’s been long enough,” Harrison said.

The officers involved remain on full duty status, Maui Police Department spokesperson Alana Pico wrote in an email. She declined to comment further since litigation is pending. Maui County spokeswoman Mahina Martin did not respond to requests for comment.

According to the lawsuit, the police officers shot Naki “without any further provocation.”

“If he didn’t jump at them with a machete or do something like that, then they assassinated him. What other word could you use?” Harrison said.

Naki died hours later, after his body was left on the road without receiving medical care, the suit says.

Harrison said he based that allegation on a review of Naki’s death certificate, which marked the time of death hours after the shooting took place, suggesting he had been left there. But Harrison stressed that it’s hard to know exactly what happened since officials haven’t been forthcoming with information.

Kamehameha V Highway winds around the East side of Molokai also known as Mana'e.
Naki was killed toward the east end of Molokai’s Kamehameha V Highway. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022)

Naki’s family also alleges that the police department and county have not provided them information about Naki’s death in an attempt to cover up responsibility.

The police officers knew Naki and that he was a “vulnerable individual due to his present mental state,” but failed to act with caution accordingly, the suit says.

If more information comes out that justifies the officers’ use of deadly force, Harrison said, “then the family might rethink this matter, but we don’t know that from what we’ve seen. What they released, it doesn’t show basis for deadly force.”

Naki’s parents had previously filed for protective orders against Naki, which he had violated at least one time.

While the officers were said to be responding to a temporary restraining order violation, Harrison said none of the family members called the police that day.

“We don’t know who called the police,” Harrison said.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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