Man hit with police pepper spray dies
The suspect allegedly refused to comply with commands to give up
A 26-year-old homeless man who was in critical condition after police pepper-sprayed him Monday died Wednesday night.
Police said the man was combative, appeared to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and had been drinking with a friend all night before the incident.
The man had been shoving and hitting people in Chinatown before 6 a.m. Monday, police said. Officers who responded to a call for help at 126 N. Pauahi St. reported that the suspect refused to comply with numerous commands to surrender.
The man fled and was stopped at 62 N. Hotel St., where he again refused to comply with commands to surrender, police said.
"He then lunged at a police officer, at which time pepper spray was deployed to try to get the suspect to comply with verbal commands," Capt. Frank Fujii said yesterday. "The suspect continued to be very combative."
He then pulled a tree out of the ground, police said.
The suspect resisted several officers' attempts to arrest him. When police finally arrested him, he was taken to the Alapai cellblock, where he later became unresponsive, Fujii said. He said he did not how much time passed before the suspect became unresponsive.
The suspect was taken by ambulance to the Queen's Medical Center, where he died at 11 p.m. Wednesday.
The man received superficial scrapes and scratches, Fujii said.
Fujii said he would not speculate on a possible cause of death.
An autopsy has been conducted by the Medical Examiner's Office, but the cause of death is pending other test results. A positive identification could not be made, and the Medical Examiner's Office has yet to locate family members.
"The male was very combative. We needed to stop him from hurting other people," Fujii said.
Police spokeswoman Michelle Yu said, "By all indications, the officers responded as they are trained."
The suspect had three prior convictions of harassment and theft, all misdemeanors. He was charged with resisting arrest, harassment of a police officer, fourth-degree criminal property damage (for pulling up the tree) and three counts of third-degree assault.
HPD Internal Affairs is conducting an investigation, but none of the officers have been placed on administrative leave.
Yu was not aware of any prior deaths associated with the use of pepper spray by the Police Department.
A report by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2003 cited a University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center study of in-custody deaths following pepper spray use. The study concluded exposure to pepper spray was a contributing cause in two of 63 fatalities, both of which involved suspects with asthma.
The Justice Department's report also concluded, "There is evidence that pepper spray is less effective on subjects who are on drugs."