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State briefs for June 8

Jury clears police officers in man’s stun gun death

HONOLULU — A federal jury found police did not use excessive force against a man who died after being pepper sprayed and shot with a stun gun, a report said.

The jury in Honolulu ruled Thursday against the family of 38-year-old Sheldon Haleck in the $3 million lawsuit.

The plaintiffs argued the officers’ actions did not comply with use of force standards.

Haleck died in March 2015 after officers used pepper spray about a dozen times and shot him with a Taser three times within five minutes, authorities said.

Haleck was on methamphetamine while walking through traffic, police said.

Officers continued to use pepper spray because Haleck did not seem to be affected. Haleck also was not immediately immobilized by the stun gun before he became unresponsive and stopped breathing, authorities said.

He was declared dead at a hospital the next morning.

Haleck’s family brought the lawsuit against three officers. Such cases do not normally reach trial, but the city chose not to settle.

An autopsy report attributed Haleck’s death to a physical altercation while acutely intoxicated with methamphetamine.

Officers testified that Haleck was not aggressive but continued moving away as they tried to remove him from the street, and they feared for Haleck’s safety as well as their own.

City attorneys called expert witnesses who testified Haleck died of “excited delirium.”

The syndrome has been cited in dozens of deaths involving police struggles and has been criticized as a cover for excessive force.

Man dies after leaping into ocean from isolated cliff

HONOLULU — A man died after leaping into the ocean at an isolated Oahu cliff where another person was critically injured days earlier, officials said.

The 22-year-old man died Wednesday after jumping at Spitting Cave. The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office identified him as Matthew R. Forero-Pinilla and called his death an accidental drowning.

Honolulu firefighters responded to a report of a swimmer in distress, learning Forero-Pinilla took the 60-foot plunge, resurfaced and then went under again, authorities said.

Firefighters initially tried to dive to reach him but couldn’t bring him up. A scuba diver found him 60 feet underwater, authorities said.

Forero-Pinilla was transported via a Honolulu Fire Department rescue boat in critical condition to Maunalua Bay Beach Park. Crews kept treating him on the way to a hospital, where he died.

Ocean conditions Wednesday were windy, choppy and dangerous, officials said.

The fatality was the sixth time in two weeks authorities responded to swimmers in trouble at Spitting Cave and at China Walls, which are both in the Portlock neighborhood of Honolulu.

Authorities say a 21-year-old was in critical condition after being rescued Saturday at Spitting Cave.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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