The woman who called 911 to report that an unarmed 29-year-old man from South Africa wandered into the home she was renting feared she and her husband were followed and filmed and about to become the next victims in a nationwide string of attacks on Asian people, their attorney told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Shiying “Sabine” Wang and Da Ju “Dexter” Wang of New Jersey filed a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation after the incident, said their attorney, Scot S. Brower. The attorney said the couple did not know Lindani Myeni when he followed their car into the yard at 91 Coelho Way in Nuuanu on April 14 and then ran up behind them with his phone’s camera recording. Brower also represents the homeowner, James H. Hall.
The Ring Security Camera footage released by attorneys representing Myeni’s wife, L. Lindsay Myeni, only captures movement outside the front door of the home, Brower said. Lindani Myeni wandered around inside the house for nearly six minutes, rummaging through two bedrooms while telling the couple that he was hunting and owned the home and the 10-year-old cat that lives there, he said.
“This Myeni had said to Sabine when he first arrived that ‘I have video on you, you know why I am here.’ They never recognized him before. He followed them to the house, and at some point Sabine turned around, he ducked in and tried to make it look like he was taking off his shoes. It is clear that when he ducked down it was evasive, and that’s how my client Sabine recognized it,” Brower said. “He didn’t come into the house with any consent; he didn’t come into the house with any permission. In the house he claimed he lived there, he claimed he owned the cat. The owner of the house owns the cat and has for 10 years. He walked down the hallways alone and was heard rummaging in the back rooms. My clients are very traumatized by this thing. Obviously, this is something that most human beings don’t experience in their entire lifetime.”
The 911 operator asked Sabine Wang when she called 911, after first faking a 911 call, whether Myeni was armed, threatening the couple or acting confused. Wang replied no.
Brower would not share a copy of the complaint filed with the FBI and did not say whether his clients told police what they told him. The FBI’s Honolulu division did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Honolulu police declined to answer a question about whether the Wangs conveyed the same narrative to detectives who interviewed them after Myeni was shot and killed during a violent altercation with three patrol officers who were dispatched to respond to Wang’s 911 call. HPD and Prosecuting Attorney Steven S. Alm’s office are investigating the incident and shooting by police, and both probes are ongoing.
“These are challenging times for police departments everywhere,” interim Chief Rade K. Vanic told the Star-Advertiser in a statement. “Our sworn and civilian employees handle cases 24/7, 365 days a year, and their commitment to public service is unwavering.”
Myeni gave the Wangs no indication that he was looking for the nonsectarian temple of worship at 51 Coehlo Way, Brower said. Dexter Wang is traumatized after witnessing Myeni’s “ferocious” attack on a police officer, he said.
“At no time during the entire encounter did he mention the temple. This charade that he was going to a temple is mistaken. A reasonable person that was lost or looking for something would have mentioned it,” he said.
The latest version of Myeni’s final moments came a day after attorney James J. Bickerton, who represents the Myeni family, released the footage that showed Myeni walking into the home before repeatedly apologizing while leaving. In the footage, Myeni appears confused by the couple’s behavior and Sabine Wang’s fearful pleas to a 911 operator.
Bickerton has said Myeni was looking at spiritual sites the day he was killed, like the Queen Emma Summer Palace, and that “site hunting” was what the soft-spoken man was doing in the hours leading up to his death. Myeni was looking for the ISKCON Hawaii temple at 51 Coehlo Way and mistakenly walked into Hall’s home and encountered the Wangs.
Myeni’s death sparked protests in Hawaii and in front of the U.S. State Department’s missions in South Africa. Demonstrations have occurred since April 17 all over Oahu on behalf of Myeni and racial equality as part of a coordinated community effort pushing for increased police transparency and justice for the families of unarmed suspects killed by police. On Thursday the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network released a statement condemning HPD for the shootings.
Sharpton spoke at length with Lindsay Myeni by Zoom over the weekend, Bickerton said, and has been interested in the case for several weeks. Sharpton told her he would help in any way he could, and she asked him to help ensure meaningful change comes from Lindani Myeni’s death.
“I am saddened to be once again contacted by a family and their attorneys seeking justice for the senseless killing at the hands of police, this time on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and contrary to the aloha spirit. Lindani Myeni’s killing is yet another sensational racialization and criminalization of an innocent unarmed black man at the hands of police not following the law and proper police procedures,” said Sharpton in a news release. “The Honolulu Police Department and Hawaii prosecutors must be fully transparent and assertive in pursuing justice, in this case, to ensure that Mr. Myeni’s killing is not yet another disregard of black lives. Anything other than that would be contrary to the spirit of aloha, which embraces love and respect of all lives, including black lives. We stand with the Myeni family in their demand that the Honolulu Police release all pertinent information so that they can know what the facts of this case are and seek appropriate justice.”
A protest and rally to “demand convictions for Honolulu Police Department murder victims” is planned for today from 4 to 6 p.m. in front of Honolulu Hale. It is being organized by Refuse Fascism Hawaii, Lesley Gabrielle, Justice for Lindani HI, Esser for Justice, HI Progressive Action, Af3irm Hawaii and Hawaii for Black Lives, according to a flyer for the event.
Gabrielle, a community advocate and one of the organizers of the protests, said the issues at the forefront today are long-standing and that more police accountability and transparency are long overdue. HPD’s comments to the media the day after Myeni’s death and the false narrative that he was a burglar were inappropriate, she said.
“When someone loses their life, that level of callousness, to congratulate themselves, was sickening,” she said. “Their response seemed pretty outsized. They don’t identify themselves (to Myeni in the body-worn camera footage). An individual is allowed to defend themselves against a random attack, and without HPD identifying themselves, that’s exactly what occurred. They instigated a violent situation from a situation that wasn’t violent.”