HONOLULU (AP) - Prosecutors are again looking into the case of a Honolulu police officer who can be seen on video repeatedly hitting a man with a baton before arresting him.
Deputy prosecutors had initially declined to pursue charges against Officer Ming Wang in the September 2014 incident. But Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro has ordered his staff to re-examine the case, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (https://bit.ly/1RejT2A ).
Dave Koga, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, told The Associated Press said Kaneshiro disagreed with the deputy’s decision to decline and assigned the case to another deputy to review and possibly send to a grand jury. Koga said he wasn’t able to elaborate further.
The video shows 41-year-old Jamie Kalani Rice kneeling next to a monk seal on a Nanakuli beach. It was recorded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration volunteers Barbara and Robert Billand, who told police Rice had been harassing the endangered animal.
The video shows Wang approach Rice and pull out pepper spray and a baton. Rice eventually walks away and Wang follows him. The officer can then be seen hitting Rice with the baton until Rice hits the ground.
Wang arrested Rice for allegedly harassing a monk seal and resisting arrest, but prosecutors dropped the resisting arrest charge. Rice later told a judge that he believed the seal was sick and never meant harm toward it.
Wang said in his police report that Rice had refused his orders to step away from the seal. He also said he told Rice that he was under arrest, but that Rice kept walking.
Wang said he used pepper spray on Rice, but that it was not effective. He then hit Rice in the right thigh with the baton after Rice ignored his command to get on the ground, he wrote.
Rice was later treated for broken bones in his right hand.
The Honolulu Police Department said it launched both administrative and criminal assault investigations into Wang’s conduct and forwarded the criminal investigation to prosecutors for review. Wang was reassigned to desk duty while the investigations were pending.
The department said it completed its administrative investigation but cannot comment on it because such investigations are confidential unless they result in employee termination.
The deputy prosecutor who reviewed the case said he recommended against pursuing charges because the video did not have sound to determine what was said between Wang and Rice, and Rice had signed a waiver of prosecution.
Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com
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