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Councilman alleges threats and rough treatment by police

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Big Island County Councilman Kelly Greenwell says he was wrongfully threatened with a Taser gun by police and forced to lie on the ground Saturday during a traffic stop.

He also was handcuffed.

"If he shot me with a Taser gun, I’d be dead," the 69-year-old Kona man said. "I have epileptic problems. … What do they teach these people, anyway? He was trying to twist my arm and twist my wrist behind my back."

Assistant Police Chief Henry Tavares painted a different picture, saying: "Mr. Greenwell refused to stop. He became confrontational and refused to produce his driver’s license, insurance and registration."

Police clocked him at 51 mph in a 35 mph zone in Kona, which carries a $137 fine.

An officer arrested him on suspicion of resisting an order to stop a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor; refusing to provide identification; and resisting arrest, also a misdemeanor.

He is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 12.

When he informed the officer he was a councilman and wasn’t trying to conceal his identity, the officer responded, "I don’t give a damn who you are," Greenwell said. "It was absolutely appalling that they would treat me or anybody else that way."

Tavares said the councilman was treated no differently than anyone else, that police have no reason to believe the officer violated procedure, and that officers are trained to identify a threat and take control of the situation.

Rather than pull off Queen Kaahumanu Highway in a narrow area, Greenwell said he drove about 100 yards farther along and stopped in a safe area.

Greenwell says the speed-limit sign on his side of the highway read 45 mph, not 35 mph. He wanted to discuss the matter with the officer, so he started to open the door to get out.

The officer then slammed the door shut and told him to stay inside, Greenwell said.

"It used to be they asked you to get out of the car and put your hands on the roof," he said. "It may be the old version of ‘Hawaii Five-0’ that I’ve remembered."

When Greenwell refused to be handcuffed, the officer drew his Taser, cuffed him and placed him in the back of the police car with windows closed and no air conditioning.

Greenwell also said he was not allowed to get his anti-seizure medication. Tavares said he did not appear to be suffering from a medical condition.

Greenwell has previously been convicted of traffic infractions, including speeding (1997, 2004 and 2005), not wearing a seat belt, and not possessing a driver’s license and insurance card (2006).

 

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