Hawaii family sues police, city over stun gun-related death

AP News
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Posted: Oct 20, 2015 11:25 PM
Hawaii family sues police, city over stun gun-related death

HONOLULU (AP) — The family of a Hawaii man who died after he was arrested in an incident involving a stun gun is filing a lawsuit against Honolulu police and city officials.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court Tuesday on behalf of the family of Sheldon Haleck, the 38-year-old father who died in March. The complaint says that police officers used excessive force and that authorities covered up the events surrounding Haleck's death.

"The police murdered our client and have subsequently refused to release any information, in fact we believe have attempted to cover up the fact that this occurred," Seitz said. "In our view, this case is at least as outrageous as cases that have drawn national attention from Baltimore, from Staten Island, from the St. Louis area, and in other parts of the country."

On the night in question, Haleck was running erratically in the road in downtown Honolulu, and police used pepper spray and a stun gun because he was uncooperative, according to police. At some point Haleck became unresponsive and was taken to Queen's Medical Center, where he later died, authorities said.

Seitz disputed that account, saying a video of the incident showed that Haleck was cooperating with police.

"There was absolutely no justification to use violence in this case," Seitz said. "And yet our client, who was not committing anything more than perhaps the crime of jaywalking, was not resisting arrest, was repeatedly shot with a Taser, was then manhandled on the ground, and died essentially from what took place that evening."

The Honolulu Police Department and city officials would not comment on pending litigation.

Methamphetamine was found in Haleck's blood and urine, according to an autopsy report from the Honolulu Department of the Medical Examiner. The cause of death was multiple metabolic and cardiac complications because of a physical altercation with police by an individual acutely intoxicated with methamphetamine, and the death was ruled as a homicide because of the actions performed by police, the report said.

Seitz questioned the accuracy of the report, saying it was likely influenced by police. He said city officials weren't forthcoming with information about the case.

"In other parts of the country, thousands if not tens of thousands of people would be out on the streets demanding some sort of justice for Sheldon Haleck," Seitz said. "In this case, unfortunately, I think people are somewhat immune in our community to this kind of police conduct."