Suit faults police
in ’03 death


Thursday, February 24, 2005

» Kevin Silva died in police custody on July 4, 2004. Witnesses said he had been lunging at people with knives at Kipapa Neighborhood Park in Mililani. A Page A5 story yesterday gave an incorrect year and referred to Mililani District Park.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at corrections@starbulletin.com.

The family of a Mililani man who allegedly was lunging at people with knives at a neighborhood park in 2003 and later died in police custody has filed suit in Circuit Court to find out why and how he died.

Kevin Silva, 24, was subdued by bystanders and off-duty police officers at Mililani District Park where a softball tournament was being held on July 4, 2003. Witnesses said the off-duty officers allegedly used bats to knock the knives out of Silva's hands and to hit his legs.

After uniformed officers arrived, he was handcuffed and placed in leg irons for the ride to the Wahiawa Police Station where he lost consciousness and later died at Wahiawa General Hospital.

Lorin and Carol Silva, parents of Kevin Silva, said yesterday they still have no idea what led to the incident or what transpired after their son was in police custody. He seemed fine but depressed earlier at a family picnic and barbecue he attended that day in Waialua, Carol Silva said. Her son was battling depression, but she felt he was turning his life around.

While being a police officer is not easy and most do their jobs well, in his son's case, police made some serious mistakes, including failing to obtain proper medical treatment for him, Lorin Silva said.

"We'd like to find out what happened so it doesn't happen again," he said.

A police spokeswoman said they had not yet seen the complaint and could not comment.

Todd Eddins, one of two attorneys representing the Silvas, said there were at least 32 documented external injuries on Kevin and clear signs he was exhibiting mental and physiological distress. His family has difficulty understanding why police protocol was breached.

If someone shows signs of physical injury that manifests itself into physiological distress, police are required to take them to a hospital, Eddins said. "They did not do so in this clear-cut case of an individual exhibiting those signs."

Police said at the time that Silva was taken to Wahiawa General Hospital initially but that he refused to get out. Because he didn't appear to have sustained any visible injuries, the officers decided to take him to the station, where he lost consciousness, police said.

Eddins said there is a dispute about whether Silva was actually taken to the hospital and hopes the lawsuit will uncover the facts.

The medical examiner ruled that Silva died of "cocaine-induced excited delirium" -- a type of respiratory arrest that results in death, Eddins said. While Silva had a history of cocaine use, there was no cocaine or other illegal substances detected in Silva's system at the time, he said.

One factor that may have contributed to Silva's death is that police cuffed him at the wrist and ankles and placed him in a compromised position on his chest in the police car, Eddins said.

The Silvas are seeking unspecified damages from the city and its employees who were involved in their son's arrest and detention.

Four years before the incident, Silva was involved in an incident on the H-1 where he caused several accidents after getting out of his car and allegedly threatened other motorists with machetes. He ended up stabbing himself and was hospitalized, police said.

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