In brief | Big Island & state briefs 090713


Honolulu police accused of excessive force in suit

HONOLULU — A Hawaii musician and his friend visiting from Connecticut claim in a federal lawsuit that Honolulu police officers used excessive force when they were mistaken for armed robbers while hiking.

The Honolulu Police Department declined to comment Friday on the lawsuit filed this week by John Helm, 40, of Honolulu and his friend Jonah Wellins, 40, of Hartford, Conn.

The lawsuit says Wellins was in town visiting when they went hiking Feb. 29, 2012 on Lanipo Trail in Honolulu. They noticed a police helicopter, with a pilot directing them to descend from the summit. They claim that as they were on their way down, they were accosted by eight armed officers in combat gear, who screamed profanities and ordered them to the ground.

Helm alleges he was violently shoved and his face was slammed onto the ground so hard that he lost consciousness. Wellins also alleges the officers beat him.

The officers “threatened plaintiffs on the way down at gunpoint, causing plaintiffs to fear for their lives,” according to the lawsuit.

The officers told them witnesses identified them as armed robbers, the lawsuit states, and the two men were driven in separate cars to police headquarters. They were nearly there when their cars turned around and headed back to the trail without any explanation.

They were released after it was determined they didn’t match the description of the lone robbery suspect.

After the incident, Helm and Wellins immediately filed complaints with the police commission and a hearing was held, said their attorney Myles Breiner. The commission found all of the officers engaged in “conduct unbecoming officers,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims, however, that the department failed to discipline the officers.

Breiner said nothing came of an internal affairs investigation.

Lihue woman dies while swimming in Kalapaki Bay

LIHUE, Kauai — A 67-year-old Lihue woman found unresponsive in Kalapaki Bay has died.

The Garden Island reports Karen Lardizabal was pulled from the water Wednesday night.

County officials say Lardizabal was a good swimmer and often swam in the Kalapaki Bay area.

A doctor swimming in the bay carried Lardizabal to shore and performed CPR until medics took her to Wilcox Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

A cause of death has not been determined and autopsy results are pending.

Education board seeks pay raise for superintendent

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Board of Education will pursue a pay raise for state schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports board members will ask state legislators increase the salary cap for the position.

Matayoshi was hired three years ago and her annual pay is $150,000.

The cap was set by lawmakers in 2001.

The board gave Matayoshi a job review of “exceptional” in the second year of her three-year contract.

Chairman Don Horner said in a prepared statement that Matayoshi has done an outstanding job realigning the department to achieve objectives of the board’s strategic plan.

By local and wire sources

Bill establishes parking requirements in downtown Hilo

A bill adopted by the Hawaii County Council on Thursday increases residential density in downtown Hilo and includes parking requirements.

A front page article that ran Friday incorrectly stated that the bill lowers parking requirements for the area.

The bill, which has strong backing, allows residential density to be increased from 1,000 square feet of land per unit to 500 square feet.

It is expected to increase the downtown residential population, and help spur regrowth in the area.

Additionally, the bill, which needs the mayor’s approval, establishes parking requirements for these denser developments.

Currently, parking requirements don’t exist for most of downtown.

The bill would require one off-street parking space per residential unit that’s 1,000 square feet or smaller.