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Driver indicted in death of HPD officer during traffic stop

By Nelson Daranciang

LAST UPDATED: 3:59 p.m. HST, Oct 31, 2012

An Oahu grand jury returned an indictment this morning charging James Dorsey, 21, of Waianae, with negligent homicide in the death of Honolulu police officer Eric Fontes, 45, at a traffic stop near Ko Olina Resort last year. 

Dorsey admitted that he knew he was falling asleep behind the wheel of his vehicle and even called a friend to help him stay awake, said Vickie Kapp, deputy city prosecutor.

Circuit Judge Richard Perkins set bail at $50,000.

The charge accuses Dorsey of causing Fontes’s death by operating a vehicle in a negligent manner in the Sept. 13, 2011, accident. 

Honolulu police have said that alcohol use was not involved, but that drug use and speeding may be factors in the crash.

The indictment also charges Dorsey with negligent injury for the injuries suffered by officer Herman “Sam” Scanlan.

Police said Scanlan had stopped a sport utility vehicle with an expired registration decal in the left westbound lane of Farrington Highway just before the Ko Olina off ramp. Four other officers, including Fontes, were on the scene to assist.

They said Dorsey’s pickup truck took an improbable path past some of the other officers and their vehicles before hitting Fontes.

Kapp said Dorsey fell asleep behind the wheel of his vehicle. His truck drifted from the left lane of the highway onto the grassy shoulder and glanced off the concrete medial separating eastbound and westbound traffic. It continued forward striking Fontes, who was standing between the line of police cars and the concrete medial, then hit one of the police vehicles which in turn struck Scanlan and the SUV which had been pulled over.

Police traffic investigators said Dorsey’s pickup hit Fontes in the back.

An ambulance took Fontes in extremely critical condition to Pali Momi Medical Center where he died. Scanlan suffered leg and other injuries.

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