Friday, December 6, 2002

Maui County

Maui chief
defends 3 officers

He says they did not strike
or choke a man who later died

By Gary T. Kubota

LAHAINA >> Maui Police Chief Thomas Phillips said three officers did not strike, choke or use pepper spray to arrest a Pukalani man who died after struggling with them in Lahaina, according to statements from the officers.

But according to the dead man's wife, a man at the Lahaina industrial area said he heard her husband Richard Gregory calling out about police brutality.

"'You're breaking my arm' -- that's what they heard him say," said Valerie Gregory, who works as a registered nurse. "He (Richard) said he couldn't breathe."

She said when she went to see her husband Wednesday in the morgue, authorities said she could not see him because the autopsy was not done.

Asked if she had seen him Tuesday after he died, she said no one told her that she could see his body. "They failed to mention that I could see him. I was in such a state of shock," she said.

She said her husband, 51, a musician and surfer, did not drink alcohol or take illegal drugs. She said he went through a physical exam about a year ago and did not have any medical problems.

Valerie Gregory said police have also refused to release the police report describing circumstances leading to her husband's death.

Phillips said the police report is not finished and will be forwarded to the prosecutor for a review before being released.

"When it's appropriate, she will get the report. The police have talked with her," he said.

Phillips said the police criminal investigation division and internal affairs are conducting separate investigations into the death.

Police said officers were called at 10:39 p.m. Monday to a music studio in the Lahaina industrial area because Gregory refused to leave the premises.

Phillips said police tried to talk Gregory into leaving, but he refused.

"He was holding a pen kind of in a threatening manner," Phillips said. "He was kind of acting strange."

Phillips said three police officers arrested Gregory and handcuffed him on the ground following a three- to five-minute struggle.

He said when officers rolled him over, Gregory was "unresponsive" and was not breathing.

Autopsy results are pending the results of toxicology tests, but Phillips said preliminary results show no indication of police brutality. Medical examiner Tony Manoukian told the Star-Bulletin Wednesday that there was no indication Gregory was beaten.

Maui County Police Department

County of Maui

E-mail to City Desk


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