Punch was thrown in self-defense, ex-cop says
A former police officer said he punched a man outside Honolulu police headquarters because the man made a sudden move toward him and he believed he was going to be mobbed.
Ex-Sgt. Hilarion Oliva, 42, took the stand in his defense yesterday in Honolulu District Court and described the Mother's Day 2004 incident and the events leading up to the confrontation. He is charged with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
Oliva, a 20-year veteran, is accused of punching Levi Ka'ai, 30, in the forehead so hard it caused a bleeding gash that required 11 stitches.
Ka'ai had just been released from the police cellblock and was with friends who had parked behind the Alapai station to pick him up when Oliva, who was near the end of his shift, passed by in his SUV.
Oliva said he recognized Ka'ai, whom he had arrested earlier on Pohukaina Street in Kakaako for having an open container of beer in his truck, and pulled over when Ka'ai lifted both hands as though he had something to say.
"He's calling me, so I stopped," said Oliva, who had changed out of his uniform and was wearing civilian clothes.
Although Ka'ai had been acting up earlier that morning, taunting Oliva and bragging about being able to beat him up and any other officer, Oliva said he was used to that kind of talk in his 20 years on the force and did not respond.
At the time, he could tell Ka'ai had been drinking, because of the smell of alcohol on his breath and his red, glassy eyes.
So when Ka'ai gestured at him, he thought perhaps Ka'ai wanted to explain his earlier behavior and possibly apologize, something other people he has arrested before have done, Oliva said.
But when he approached Ka'ai and asked him, "You got a problem? Can I help you?" Ka'ai swore and taunted him, saying, "You only tough in uniform," and that he could "lick your ass" and "lick all you cops' ass."
Ka'ai also egged him on, saying, "Let's go down the street," in an apparent attempt to fight.
Oliva said he tried to diffuse the situation, saying, "Enough already," but Ka'ai would not back down.
The two were about two to three feet apart, and "next thing, he makes a move," Oliva said. "I'm thinking he's gonna assault me. ... I strike him in the face with my right hand to protect myself," he said.