Sheldon Haleck died after three officers repeatedly tased and pepper-sprayed him when he refused to stop walking in the middle of King street.
A judge in Honolulu and the 9th Circuit appeals court have both refused to throw out the case against the officers.
The city is now appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the 9th Circuit ruling will discourage officers from trying to maintain the public safety and is “an affront to law enforcement.”
Eric Seitz, the attorney for Halek’s family, said the city is essentially arguing that officers are "entitled to use whatever force we need to clear the street.
He added, "That’s never been a position that’s been taken by any court anywhere.”
Seitz said the case is one of the most egregious he’s seen in more than 30 years of taking on police misconduct in Hawaii. He said Haleck was essentially killed for a jaywalking offense, and that he never presented a threat to the officers who deployed pepper spray and Tasers to subdue him.
Haleck, 38, died after a struggle with police officers near Iolani Palace. According to police, Haleck was acting erratically and running through traffic in dark-colored clothing. A Honolulu Police Department press release also described Haleck as being “combative” and “disorderly.”
But beyond that, details have been hard to come by. The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office refused to release Haleck’s autopsy for several months after the incident, saying that police and prosecutors did not want the information to be made public while an investigation into the incident was pending.
Taser videos obtained by Civil Beat through a public records request also raised questions about whether the officers making the arrest followed proper protocol when trying to subdue Haleck. One video showed Haleck holding up his hands and backing away as officers told him to get on the sidewalk. Another showed him face down on the ground screaming as he was handcuffed and leg shackled.
Happy said methamphetamine in Haleck’s system was also a contributing factor in his death. Haleck also suffered from blunt force trauma to the head.
Seitz, however, says Haleck was murdered, and that the city has been trying to hide the facts from the family and the public. He says he’s been repeatedly stonewalled when trying to get information, such as police reports and call transcripts, from HPD and other agencies involved in the case.
The city lawyers also say the officers were right to tase Halek because his actions were creating a hazard to public safety and traffic. According to the lawsuit:
The officers arrived at or near the intersection of South King Street and Richards Street, confronted Sheldon, and began questioning him. that as Sheldon was talking to the police, for reasons unknown to Sheldon and without warning to him deployed her Taser which struck Sheldon in his chest.
After being struck by Officer Critchlow’s initial Taser discharge, Sheldon attempted to back away from the Officers as the Officers continued to pursue him. Sheldon turned away and attempted to walk away from the Officers when Officer Critchlow deployed her Taser a second time, this time striking Sheldon in his back.
After being struck a second time, Sheldon fell to his back on the ground along South King Street. Officers Chung, Critchlow, Kardash, and/or other unnamed cops then physically assaulted Sheldon as he lay on the ground on his back. Officers flipped Sheldon on to his stomach, restraining him on the ground for several minutes. An unidentified officer then assaulted and restrained Sheldon by violently and forcefully planting his knee on to and across Sheldon’s neck and upper back while other officers restrained and cuffed Sheldon’s hands and legs. Then Sheldon was dragged along the road to the sidewalk by Officers Chung, Critchlow, Kardash, and other unnamed cops.
Sheldon sustained injuries including but not limited to loss of consciousness, punctures to his chest and back, abrasions to his right forehead, right cheekbone, both feet, both knees, and inner left ankle, and swelling of both hands and both feet. No officer ever warned Sheldon that a Taser would be deployed prior to the first or second deployment of Critchlow’s Taser.
The suit states that cops never announced that Sheldon was under arrest. It states that he was unarmed and not threatening members of the public or any of the officers. Sheldon was not actively resisting or threatening any cops. [MORE]