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Board will investigate shootings by officers of the law

HILO >> Authorities say all police officers involved in the four fatal shootings of men on Hawaii island this year are back on active duty as investigations into the deaths wrap up.

Assistant Chief Henry Tavares said in an email that investigations into the shooting deaths of Ronald Barawis Jr. and Scottie Yanagawa have been forwarded to the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney for review. He said probes into the deaths of Kalyp Rapoza and BJ Medeiros remain ongoing, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Monday.

The names of the officers won’t be disclosed unless they are charged in the shootings, which occurred in Hilo and Puna.

Starting in July, officer-involved shootings will be reviewed by an independent board administered by the state attorney general’s office as part of a new law approved this year.

“The intent of this bill is to make certain people have trust in the investigatory process and they feel that nothing’s being covered up or swept under the rug,” said Senate Vice President Will Espero, a co-sponsor of the legislation.

The nine-member board will consist of a deputy attorney general; a former prosecutor or deputy prosecutor from each county; a retired state judge; a former police chief, deputy chief or sheriff; and two community members without law enforcement or criminal justice experience. The governor will appoint one of the community members, while all others will be appointed by the attorney general.

The board will review investigations of officer-involved deaths in all four county police departments, state sheriffs and other law enforcers, including Department of Land and Natural Resources officers and Department of Transportation harbor police.

Espero said this year’s shootings on the Big Island point to a need for the kind of investigations that the board will conduct starting next year.

Barawis was shot and killed by officers Feb. 5 in a McDonald’s drive-thru. Police say he was armed and drove toward officers, who opened fire in response. Barawis was wanted along with Yanagawa in connection with a Jan. 31 shooting that critically injured a Kona man. Yanagawa was killed four days after Barawis in a shootout with officers in a Walmart parking lot.

Police say Rapoza was fatally shot June 6 by an officer while armed with a knife. A dog that was with him was also shot.

Medeiros was shot and killed July 22 after police say he pointed a handgun at an officer.

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  • Sad to say having officer-involved shootings reviewed by an “independent board” administered by the state attorney general’s office is already a recipe for disaster as the AG is part of the legal process, making it impossible to be “independent.”

    Even worse is the makeup of the so called “independent board” made up primarily of legal/law enforcement makes it utterly impossible to be independent and impartial. Having 8 of the 9 members all part of the law enforcement/prosecution/judge process and and a LE leaning civilian appointed by the AG will all lean towards buying what ever the officer says. The one lone civilian appointed by the Gov will basically be on the sidelines while the other 8 run roughshod over the process, rubber stamping the officer’s story.

    So laughable how the backwards Nei continues to fall behind the mainland. Ideally the review board should be totally managed by civilians with no connection to Law Enforcement, be 60% civilian, 40% Law Enforcement. Final results by a majority vote, results made public to ensure the public sees the truth. No more corruption.

    Just another day in the little 10th world of Hawaii Nei.

  • But you really can’t have non-law enforcement or non-legal type people on the board. Their investigations must be based on “legal” grounds and not on emotions. That’s how the media operates…the media bases its stories on emotion rather than legal facts so when an unpopular decision comes down based on legal facts, the people get upset because they have already been led on and made their emotional decision.

  • Are these former and retired government employees sitting on this board to be receiving a financial compensation? If so, isn’t this prohibited to be employed by a government job b/c they are receiving a pension and that would be double dipping?

    This question was posed to the SOH-Attorney General Office on their 40 or so contract investigative positions of retired law enforcement officer’s double dipping a few years ago. I believe, most of the AG’s investigator’s are being allowed to double dip having a retirement pension and being paid as contract hires.

    For that matter then why aren’t former Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG) offered a position that served in the military? Why are these position limited to a select few with legal backgrounds?

    Is this board being funded by the State of HI or is this board being funded by the Federal Gov’t? Is this new law one that was created by Hawaii lawmakers or adopted by a new Federal Law? What is the name of this newly founded board and reference to this law, is it a Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) law?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  • Sounds like a rubber stamp committee composed mostly of retired law enforcement people who will obviously lean in favor of Police. The AG will probably be told by Ige to seek Shopo approval for each committee member as the public worker unions have taken over state and Honolulu city government.
    Shopo supports Chief Kealoha and has been able to keep him on the job despite the federal investigation and clear evidence of his corruption and inappropriate use of his police powers.
    These big island shootings seem justified, they need to investigate the Honolulu shootings of unarmed and innocent people that have occurred since Kealoha took office. Several motorists were shot by Police for trying to run away over the last few years. Police typically claim that the driver tried to run them over and use that as an excuse to kill an unarmed person. Several of these type incidents on Oahu in the last few years.

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