WAILUKU >> A federal judge has dismissed an excessive force lawsuit by two men who were shot by Maui police officers in 2010.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson ruled the officers used reasonable force in firing shots at the driver of a fleeing truck, the Maui News reported. The order filed last week said the four officers fired in an effort to stop the driver and inadvertently hit Joshua Nakagawa and Anthony Lum-John, who were riding in the bed of the truck.
The two men sued, claiming excessive force was used and their civil rights were violated. Their attorneys didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment by The Associated Press Tuesday.
“The officers have been completely vindicated,” said Maui County Deputy Corporation Counsel Moana Lutey. “This ruling ends the lawsuit in favor of the officers and the county.”
Officers Erik Losvar, Russell Kapahulehua, Jun Hattori and Harry Matsuura Jr. were investigating reports of gunshots fired at Punalau Beach. Despite instructions from the officers to stop, a Toyota pickup truck slowed, then suddenly accelerated, striking Losvar, according to the ruling.
Watson’s order said the officers were unaware Nakagawa and Lum-John were in the truck and were forced to make “split-second” decisions to protect others.
“Fearing Losvar would be run over, Kapahulehua raised his gun and fired three shots at the driver’s head in quick succession,” the order said. “Despite being struck by the truck in the right hip, and being thrown off on the driver’s side of the truck, Losvar was able to fire at the Toyota’s driver because he believed that Matsuura was in danger of being struck next or killed.”
The officers fired 15 rounds, police said. Lum-John was shot once in his buttock and Nakagawa was shot three times in the back.
Nakagawa’s Honolulu attorney, Michael Green, told The Associated Press Tuesday that they plan to appeal. “I respect the judge,” Green said. “I just respectfully disagree with his ruling.”