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Family disputes autopsy report on man who died after arrest

The conclusion that he did not suffer assault injuries is called into question

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:17 a.m. HST, Jun 6, 2013

There were no assault injuries on a man whose family is claiming Honolulu police used excessive force in detaining him, the medical examiner’s office said Wednesday.

No “assaultive-type” injuries were found on Stephen Dinnan during the autopsy, a spokeswoman said. A cause of death is pending further testing and an investigation.

Dinnan, 35, was taken off life support Tuesday after he was pronounced brain dead. He had been hospitalized in critical condition after an altercation with police Monday in Waimanalo.

“He was pretty much beat up,” said his family’s attorney, William Harrison. “It would appear to me way too much force was used. He was not involved with any stolen vehicle.”

Police said in a statement that Dinnan fled when officers arrived at a Waimanalo home to locate a stolen vehicle and he fought off attempts to detain him. Dinnan became unresponsive shortly after he was brought under control, police said.

Harrison said Dinnan was outside carrying one of his children when officers arrived at the home he shared with others, and he put the child in his car.

“He wanted to get the child out of harm’s way,” Harrison said. “He was not trying to flee from the officers.”

Harrison said an officer choked Dinnan unconscious and Dinnan’s back, neck and arms were covered in bruises.

Police said there was an effort to resuscitate Dinnan, but Harrison disputed that, saying officers were incredulous when someone said Dinnan wasn’t breathing. Another officer arrived and called an ambulance, Harrison said.

Police said a 26-year veteran of the force has been placed on administrative leave and the department has opened an internal investigation. A police spokeswoman would not comment further.

The medical examiner’s finding is confusing, Harrison said.

“I don’t understand why they volunteered that information,” he said. “If they’re saying Stephen wasn’t assaulted, that runs afoul of the type of injuries and bruises he sustained.”

Harrison said claiming no assaultive-type injuries were found isn’t surprising from a Honolulu medical examiner’s office anticipating legal action.

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