KAILUA-KONA >> A former Big Island police officer died two days before he was scheduled to change his plea in an assault case.
John Smith Jr. of Ocean View was found dead Sunday. Police say they have called for a coroner’s investigation into his death, although there is no indication of foul play, West Hawaii Today reported.
Smith was charged with second-degree assault for an alleged January 2014 attack on a man in police custody. He was accused of dragging the suspected squatter by his hair, slamming him against a police vehicle and assaulting him inside the car.
Smith had been off duty at the time.
It is unclear if Smith’s proposed plea change, scheduled for Tuesday, would be to guilty or no contest.
Deputy Prosecutor Kauanoe Jackson, who was in charge of the case, said she could not comment on the substance of the plea agreement.
Smith was an officer from June 1999 to March 2014.
Hawaii Police Department Maj. Samuel Thomas said he couldn’t comment on the reason for Smith’s departure from the police force, citing department policy. But Smith’s attorney, Robert Kim, said his client had been “under so much pressure” as a result of the cases.
In 2010, Smith was commended by police Chief Harry Kubojiri for “his thorough investigative skills that led to the identity of a burglary suspect” and received six letters of appreciation from the public.