Murder ruled out in case of visitor who died after detention at store


POSTED: Sunday, December 20, 2009

QUESTION: What ever happened to the case of the California man who died after being chased and held down by a store manager and a bystander at the Hyatt Regency in Waikiki for allegedly stealing beer?

ANSWER: The city prosecutor's office declined to prosecute the case against the store manager and a bystander because there was no probable cause for murder in the death of 33-year-old Humberto Murillo.

Murillo, who loved to travel, was visiting from San Fernando, Calif., last July to celebrate his 34th birthday with his wife and three children.

Police said Murillo walked into the ABC Store at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa and then walked out with a couple of cold packs of beer without paying.

The store manager then chased Murillo, found him on the hotel's second floor and demanded a receipt.

Police said Murillo assaulted the 29-year-old manager, who called for help. A 20-year-old visitor helped subdue Murillo and he and the store manager held him down.

Murillo's wife, Sabrina Medina, had told the Star-Bulletin in August that she wanted to know why her husband was killed after being accused of stealing beer. What police described as happening did not sound like her husband since he did not drink, she said.

She said he was in a good mood when he left to take a walk about 8 p.m. July 6, the eve of his birthday.

Jim Fulton, spokesman for the city prosecutor's office, said the case did not meet the standard for murder under the law in Hawaii.

Deputy Medical Examiner Gayle Suzuki said in the autopsy report that two persons held Murillo down in a prone position on the ground, placing their weight on Murillo's back.

“;It was then noticed that the decedent was not breathing and was foaming at the mouth,”; the autopsy report said.

She ruled that the manner of death was homicide. He died of mechanical asphyxia—that is, he had been held down while lying on his stomach, restricting his breathing.

The autopsy report says Murillo had pinpoint hemorrhages or bleeding in his eyes, chest and shoulder area, consistent with mechanical asphyxia.

He also had bruises to his jaw and the area surrounding his eyes.

The autopsy also showed Murillo had recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The report also said that Murillo had marijuana in his system, but no alcohol.

Robert Partain, an attorney representing Medina, said, “;Asphyxiation doesn't happen instantaneously. Regardless if he stole some beer or there was an altercation, it doesn't make sense to hold someone down for so long.”;

“;At some point, even if he was trying to struggle, he stopped struggling, and they still held him down and let him die.”;

Partain said there are conflicting stories about how many people were involved in restraining Murillo.

He said what happened to Murillo was tragic. “;He was a good guy, a family man who traveled with his family twice a year.”;