Myeni family's attorneys want to query occupants, owner of home

Peter Boylan, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
·3 min read

May 4—Attorneys representing the family of the man shot and killed by police April 14 are trying to question the woman who called 911, her husband and the owner of the home where 29-year old Lindani Myeni died following a fight with three police offers responding to a burglary call.

Attorneys James J. Bickerton and Bridget G. Morgan-Bickerton filed the lawsuit April 22 against the three officers and the city, claiming wrongful death, negligence and assault and battery. The suit alleges that Myeni peacefully conversed with the Wangs and left the property. Police officers initiated the fight by aggressively ordering him to the ground with flashlights in his face and guns drawn without identifying themselves as law enforcement.

On Friday in a series of filings, Myeni's attorneys noticed their intent to depose the woman who called 911, Shiying "Sabine " Wang ; her husband, Da Ju "Dexter " Wang ; and the registered owner of the home, James H. Hall. The family is also attempting to recover Myeni's phone to save family photos and go through his call and map search history to see where he was headed on the evening of April 14. HPD and the Office of the City Corporation Counsel declined comment.

"HPD won't return his phone to the family and as of 4 p.m. today had not given it to Prosecutor Alm either. What are they hiding ?, " Bickerton told the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

The home at 91 Coelho Way is a short-term vacation rental advertised on Airbnb and Instagram, according to the lawsuit, meaning discrimination by persons owning, operating or controlling that establishment on grounds of race is prohibited by law.

"After Mr. Myeni arrived by car and removed his shoes upon entering the transient accommodations house on the Property, Mr. Myeni became aware that he was unwelcome and left the house peacefully. Plaintiff alleges that the response by the occupants of the Property was motivated by Mr. Myeni's race and constituted racial discrimination in public accommodation, " the lawsuit alleges.

"Unbeknown to Mr. Myeni, the police decided to treat this non-violent and peaceful entry into, and departure from, a place of public accommodation, as a crime in progress, and arrived at the scene without lights, sirens or other indicators of their presence in an apparent attempt to take the 'perpetrator' by surprise. As there was no moon present in the sky at the time and this was a residential street in Nuuanu, it was dark."

"As Mr. Myeni stood still, unarmed, on the side of the driveway just a few feet off the street, one of the Officers, while hysterical screams of 'that's him' emanated from a person standing in the doorway of the house on the Property, suddenly shone the flashlight directly in Mr. Myeni's eyes and held a pistol in the flashlight beam pointed at Mr. Myeni. At the same time, without ever announcing that he was an officer or using the word 'police, ' or stating his purpose, that officer shouted several times in a rough, aggressive, disrespectful, and threatening manner 'get on the ground, '" the suit alleges.

"This conduct towards Mr. Myeni, treating him as less than a human being regardless of whatever alleged 'crime' was being investigated and callously not deigning to explain themselves, their identity, or their purpose, was motivated by racial discrimination towards people of Mr. Myeni's African descent, " reads the lawsuit.

Prior to the April 14 incident, police and city inspectors had responded to incidents at the home.

In the past year, officers responded to reports of a vehicle break-in, a motor vehicle collision, a possible COVID violation and a miscellaneous incident. The Department of Planning and Permitting investigated seven complaints from 2019 to 2020 of an illegal short-term rental being operated at the home.