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Honolulu police accused of excessive force in suit

A Hawaii musician and his friend visiting from Connecticut claim in a federal lawsuit that Honolulu police officers used excessive force when they were mistaken for armed robbers while hiking.

The Honolulu Police Department declined to comment Friday on the lawsuit filed this week by John Helm and his friend Jonah Wellins.

The lawsuit says Wellins was in town visiting when they went hiking on Feb. 29, 2012 on Lanipo Trail in Honolulu. They noticed a police helicopter, with a pilot directing them to descend from the summit. They claim that as they were on their way down, they were accosted by eight armed officers in combat gear, who screamed profanities and ordered them to the ground.

Helm alleges he was violently shoved and his face was slammed onto the ground so hard that he lost consciousness. Wellins also alleges the officers beat him.

The officers "threatened plaintiffs on the way down at gunpoint, causing plaintiffs to fear for their lives," according to the lawsuit.

The officers told them witnesses identified them as armed robbers, the lawsuit states, and the two men were driven in separate cars to police headquarters. They were nearly there when their cars turned around and headed back to the trail without any explanation.

They were released after it was determined they didn’t match the description of the lone robbery suspect.

After the incident, Helm and Wellins filed complaints with the police commission, which found all of the officers engaged in "conduct unbecoming officers," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims, however, that the department failed to punish the officers.

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