A man who said Honolulu police put him in a headlock and shoved his face in the sand while arresting him for peddling toy helicopters is set to receive a $13,500 settlement from the city, according to a City Council committee report.
Rhys Nakakura was selling light-up helicopters on the beach area near the Hilton Hawaiian Village hotels in June 2017 when he was approached by officers, his federal lawsuit states.
Officer Janghoon Cho allegedly purchased three helicopters and informed his colleagues, Officers Courtney Pahia-Lewis and Tracy Tamondong, about the transaction, according to the lawsuit. Pahia-Lewis then informed Nakakura that he was being arrested for selling the product to the plain-clothes police officer, the lawsuit states.
Tamondong and Pahia-Lewis allegedly grabbed Nakakura by the shoulders and forced him to the ground, pushing his face into the sand, according to the lawsuit. It says Cho placed Nakakura in a headlock and applied his body weight while keeping his face buried in the sand. Wharton allegedly grabbed the man’s legs.
As a result, Nakakura suffered injuries to his right shoulder and was forced to inhale and swallow sand, causing him to vomit and cough, the lawsuit states. The officers later took him to the hospital.
“At no time did Plaintiff resist the Defendants’ commands,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit states that the officers wrote reports that “altered the events as they actually took place” to make it sound like using force was unavoidable.
Nakakura’s complaint accused the city of violating his civil rights, among other offenses. The lawsuit, filed in 2019, was discussed last week in City Council’s Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee, a report shows. All nine council members unanimously approved the settlement.
Nakamura’s attorney, Richard Gronna, did not respond to an inquiry on Thursday. The Honolulu Police Department also did not respond to a request for comment, including questions about whether the officers were disciplined.
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