A lawsuit alleges that plainclothes Honolulu Police Department officers surrounded a man at a gas station and fired at least 20 rounds at him, killing him without justification.

The complaint filed Tuesday by attorney Eric Seitz on behalf of Raynette Kahalehoe accuses HPD of negligence and assault and battery in her son Michael Kahalehoe’s death in November 2019.

According to the lawsuit, Kahalehoe was driving on Nov. 12, 2019 with one passenger when five plainclothes officers began following him after matching the vehicle with the description of a car stolen several days earlier.

The plainclothes officers allegedly followed Kahalehoe as he pulled into a gas station and never called for backup from police officers in marked patrol vehicles.

Instead, the lawsuit claims that the officers surrounded the vehicle with Kahalehoe in the driver’s seat and drew their firearms.

According to the lawsuit, the officers did not announce themselves or identify themselves as they approached and surrounded the vehicle.

“Finding himself suddenly surrounded late at night by five unidentified individuals driving unmarked cars with guns drawn, Kahalehoe started the Vehicle,” the complaint states.

A lawsuit claims that plainclothes officers shot a suspect in 2019 without justification. Fotalia

The officers allegedly then opened fire on Kahalehoe, firing over 20 rounds and striking him at least 12 times, once in the head, once in the forearm, with the remaining ten bullets in his chest and torso.

The car had a manual transmission so when Kahalehoe was struck by the gunfire, the vehicle lurched forward, according to the lawsuit.

Following the incident, then-Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard “falsely claimed that the Vehicle grazed one of the officers and rammed police vehicles and that the Plainclothes Officer Defendants fired their weapons in self defense,” the complaint claimed.

“From our standpoint, again, it’s another case of the police getting out in violation of their rules and shooting into a car,” Seitz said. “Of course they claimed the car moved in some manner and of course they claim that caused some danger to them, but if they put themselves in positions of danger, that’s not applicable.”

In a statement, HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu said, “We will be working with the city’s Corporation Counsel to address the allegations. All officer-involved shootings are reviewed by the HPD, Prosecutor’s Office and Law Enforcement Independent Review Board.”

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