Tuesday, January 29, 2002

A policeman sits by a sign about Dana Ambrose at the intersection where she was killed in this file photo from May. The jury in the trial of Clyde Arakawa will visit the site tonight.

Arakawa ran
red light, first
witness testifies

Peter Carlisle opens the manslaughter
trial of the ex-HPD officer

By Debra Barayuga and Treena Shapiro |

Over a 7-hour stretch beginning the afternoon of Oct. 7, 2000, then-Honolulu police officer Clyde Arakawa drank "beer after beer after beer after beer and hard liquor" at two bars before he got into his car to drive home.

At about the same time, 19-year-old Dana Ambrose, a University of Hawaii college student, had just finished a 6-hour shift as a waitress at Brew Moon at Ward Center and was headed home to the North Shore.

At about 10 minutes to midnight, Arakawa sped into the intersection at Pali Highway and South School Street against a red light and struck Ambrose's car, pushing it into a pillar and trapping her inside. Only Arakawa walked away alive.

That is the scenario city prosecutor Peter Carlisle outlined in opening statements at Arakawa's trial this morning. Carlisle is asking a jury of nine women and three men to convict the 49-year-old former police officer of reckless manslaughter for causing Ambrose's death. Manslaughter is punishable by 20-years in prison.

Carlisle said Arakawa knew the effects alcohol had on him and even with that knowledge, after seven hours of drinking, he got behind the wheel of his car, drove at almost twice the speed limit into an intersection against the light and killed Ambrose.

Arakawa's attorney Michael Ostendorp did not make an opening statement today.

Carlisle also called his first witnesses -- HPD Traffic Sgt. James Addison, who took the aerial photographs of the collision scene, and Claren Damaso, who witnessed the collision.

Damaso, 19, said she had been in the passenger's seat of her boyfriend's car, stopped at a red light on the Pali, facing School Street, when she saw the cars collide in front of her.

She testified that she was able to see the red light clearly when Arakawa crossed the intersection on her left. "If it was green we would have been going. We wouldn't have stopped for a green light."

According to Damaso, Arakawa "was going really fast, no intention of stopping at all."

She said she did not notice anything unusual about Ambrose's speed as she passed in front of them.

Damaso testified that she dialed 911 at 11:49 p.m., but handed her cellular phone to her boyfriend to talk to the operator because "I was in such a shock. I was so shaken."

Damaso said she got out of the car and walked toward where the two cars had come to rest, perhaps thinking she could help, but as she got to the middle of the crosswalk, she turned back. "It was so bad. I didn't want to go any closer," she said. "I stopped myself and went back to the car."

Damaso and her boyfriend drove home before emergency crews arrived. She said she later contacted the police after her family told her they were calling for witnesses.

The jury is expected to visit the scene of the crash tonight.

Honolulu police will close the Pali Highway-School Street intersection and the H-1 freeway Koko Head-bound offramp at Pali Highway from 8:45 to 9:30 p.m.

During the two to three week trial, Carlisle is also expected to introduce evidence that at the time of the collision, Arakawa's blood alcohol level was .165 -- nearly twice the legal limit. Arakawa refused to submit to sobriety tests after the crash.

Carlisle is also expected to present evidence collected from the traffic light pole to show who had the green light. Accident reconstruction experts are expected to be called to show that Arakawa was going at least 57 to 59 mph, while Ambrose was driving between 37 to 39 mph.

Arakawa's friend and bar employees are on the witness list to testify as to how many beers Arakawa had that night. Based on their testimony and pictures from a video camera at one of the bars, Arakawa is believed to have drunk at least 10 to 11 beers and a shot of hard liquor.

Circuit Judge Karen Ahn is presiding over the trial.

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