The Honolulu Police Department denied allegations today that an officer punched and used a Taser on a teenage protester who chained himself to a gate in Kalaeloa Sunday night.
At a news conference this afternoon, acting police Chief John McCarthy showed a video taken by a police camera (not a body camera) of the teen, Stetson “Mana” Morales, being cut free from the gate. The video was redacted to remove the view of the tool and some of the verbiage used by officers, McCarthy said. The video did not show evidence of a Taser being used or any assault.
McCarthy said an HPD truck drove and happened to park in a location that obscured what was happening from the crowd that night because it carried heavy tools needed to cut the chain lock.
The acting chief said none of the officers who were with Morales, who turned 19 on Wednesday, carried Tasers, although other officers at the scene, including the bicycle officers do.
McCarthy said the teen was taken to the hospital because he had a pre-existing medical condition, and not because he was injured by a Taser or assaulted by police. He was examined and there was no evidence of any injuries from a Taser or from being punched.
HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu said he was taken to the hospital by police car and later to the police station.
Morales said he spoke with a doctor, but declined treatment because he wanted to be bailed out as soon as possible.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser asked HPD about the allegation Tuesday afternoon. However an HPD spokeswoman said on Wednesday morning that she had not heard or seen anything about a Taser, and asked for information about the protester to follow up on it.
The Star-Advertiser requested information from one of the protesters, but did not hear back.
On Wednesday night, Morales told the Star-Advertiser that he was treated respectfully by older officers, but then two younger officers took over and one of them punched him in the ribs and back. He then alleges the use of a Taser put to his body like a stun gun, which he said he did not know could be used in such a manner.
The estimated 150 to 175 law enforcement officers outnumbered the 125 or so opponents of the AES Corp.’s wind turbine project again at Kalaeloa Wednesday night.
Police carried away a young man and a young woman at about 11:20 p.m., arresting them. They remained on the driveway — seated back-to-back on the pavement, their hands duct-taped together — after police warned the crowd to move.
Kaukaohu Wahilani, 52, of Waianae, one of the leaders of the group, called it overkill since the group maintained a nonviolent protest.
“It’s appearance of excessive force in the amount of numbers,” he said. “But they’ve been cordial and professional.”
Wahilani’s nephew, Stetson “Mana” Morales, who chained himself by the neck to a gate on Sunday night said that older officers were watching over him and were respectful that night, but then two younger officers took over.
He said one of the younger officers started punching him in the ribs and back. The officer then asked if he wanted to walk to the police cruiser, but he declined and joked that the officer’s punches were soft, Morales said.
That’s when, Morales said, the officer pressed his Taser against his body and used it like a stun gun, giving him a jolt, noting that he still had the chains around his neck.
“It was painful and it hurt, but hearing everybody chanting and singing, it gave me more mana,” said Morales, who turned 19 on Wednesday.
He said it felt “like all your muscles engage and are flexing at the same time. You feel like passing out.”
The police took him to Queen’s Medical Center West, where he said he spoke to a doctor. “I just wanted to get bailed out, so I refused a checkup,” Morales said. He added that he has a condition that prevents his body from producing adrenaline.
Michelle Yu, spokeswoman for the Honolulu Police Department, said she was unaware of any incident involving a Taser.
On Wednesday night, the group was subdued, and there were no taunts directed to officers.
Four trucks carrying wind turbine parts headed toward Kahuku at 11:41 p.m., 21 minutes later than Tuesday night, the group noted.
In Kahuku, close to 100 demonstrators of the Na Pua Makani wind farm were peacefully met by a roughly equal number of police officers at the entrance to the project site.
After the final warning from police for demonstrators to clear the project driveway, two people remained in an act of defiance and they were arrested at about 2:30 a.m. without any major incident.
The latest arrests brought to 111 the total number of arrests since the protests started Oct. 17.
At about 3 a.m., with police cordoning off the driveway, the four trucks with turbine tower sections made their way up to the project site where they are being assembled.