Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm announced on Wednesday that the deadly force used in an officer-involved shooting in April was justified and that the three officers involved won’t face any charges.
Lindani Myeni, a 29-year-old South African man, was fatally shot by officers from the Honolulu Police Department on April 14, just three months after he moved to the Pacific island state with his wife and their two children.
Myeni’s widow has filed a wrongful death suit against the city and the police department alleging the officers acted on racial discrimination, but, according to Alm, race didn’t play a role in the shooting.
“We did not find any evidence that race played any part in this case,” he said at a news conference on June 30, KHON2 reported.
“In some communities you do have the police are of one race, generally, and the people they are policing are of another race. And we don’t have that in Hawaii … police officers live among us,” he said.
On the day of the shooting, Myeni entered a residence that was not his, sat down and removed his shoes, which caused an occupant of the condominium to call 911. Once police arrived, a scuffle ensued between Myeni and the officers who did not immediately identify themselves.
Ring camera footage of the encounter released in June shows that Myeni exited the residence soon after entering, apologizing multiple times to the residents. The woman told the 911 operators Myeni didn’t appear to have any weapons and wasn’t behaving aggressively. A male resident could be heard saying that Myeni apologized for entering.
Myeni was out of the home by the time police arrived. “That’s him!” the woman said as they pulled up. Three officers ran toward Myeni, instructing him to get on the ground. He responded, “Who are you?” A scuffle ensued and a taser was deployed, before someone said “shoot him,” and several shots rang out. After several more shots one of the officers finally said, “police!”
According to police, one officer sustained a concussion during the struggle with Myeni.
Alma said that because Myeni entered the home uninvited and attacked officers, the deadly force was justified. The prosecutor shared that a two-month investigation shows that Myeni was exhibiting “bizarre” behavior on the night of the shooting.
About 30 minutes before the shooting, four officers responded to a report of someone trying to enter a vehicle. Myeni intervened in the investigation, asked an officer for money, and tried to get into a police vehicle, according to Alm. Next, Myeni drove to where the shooting took place.
Alm said that Myeni told the woman in the residence he entered, “I have videos of you. You know why I’m here,” said he lived in the home and that a cat in the residence belonged to him.
Alm explained, “And he said, ‘Tell them I’m from South Africa. I’m on a hunt. I’m on a safari.’ He lowered his feathered headband, and he said, ‘We’re hunting and there’s no time.'”
Alm said Myeni should have been able to to see that the officers were with the police because the street lights made their uniforms visible. The visuals are unclear from the dascham and ring video released. Alm also noted that that officers tried to use a non-lethal method to handle the situation before employing deadly force.
“Even after verbal commands, a firing of a Taser, yelling about Taser, actually getting shot by Officer 1, Mr. Myeni would not stop his attack on Officer 1,” said Alm. Myeni continued punching an officer even after he’d been shot in the chest, Alm said.
According to Myeni’s widow, he mistook the home for a Hare Krishna temple next door. She believes he was looking for a spiritual place at the time, and noted that he was wearing his umqhele, a traditional Zulu headband, during the encounter and that he took his shoes off before entering the residence which is a sign of respect.
But according to Alm, no evidence supports that idea.
“If in fact Mr. Myeni was looking for the temple, it would have taken him maybe a few seconds after getting into the house to realize oh, no temple, wrong place, turn around, leave,” he said.
Myeni’s widow plans to move ahead with the lawsuit. Two of the three officers involved in the shooting have returned to work, while one is recovering from his injuries.