Police death prompts suit

Glen Gaspar's family says he
should have been ordered
to wear a bulletproof vest

The family of slain police officer Glen Gaspar alleges in a lawsuit filed yesterday that Gaspar's superiors were negligent when they failed to order him and other officers to wear bulletproof vests before attempting to arrest a fugitive.

Gaspar, 40, was not wearing a vest on March 4, 2003, when he was shot to death as he and other officers struggled with Shane Mark over control of Mark's gun. Gaspar and five other undercover police went into the Kapolei Baskin-Robbins to arrest Mark, who was meeting his former girlfriend and their 10-year-old daughter.

The lawsuit names the Honolulu Police Department, current Police Chief Boisse Correa and then-Chief Lee Donohue, Gaspar's superior and fellow officers, the city and Mark. The complaint was filed in Circuit Court on behalf of Gaspar's two daughters, his parents, and brother Greig.

The suit alleges Gaspar's superior officers failed to properly supervise him, and violated police procedures to ensure the safety of its officers.

The complaint contends Gaspar's superiors failed to properly control, direct or supervise the operation. It also alleges that "Gaspar was duty-bound to follow such defective orders."

Lt. Bill Kato and Detective Bruce Swann, the supervisors in the undercover operation, and officer Calvin Sung and detectives Kenny Higa and Shannon Kawakami, who participated in the operation, were individually named in the suit.

After HPD's Internal Affairs and Administrative Review Board investigated Gaspar's death, Kato and Swann were ordered temporarily demoted, but Swann retired before being demoted. Sung, Higa and Kawakami received one-day suspensions.

Calls to a police spokeswoman were not returned yesterday, and the officers could not be reached for comment.

During Mark's trial, Kato testified the suspect's ex-girlfriend told police she was meeting Mark and assured them he would be unarmed.

Kato also said officers are required to wear bulletproof vests only when responding to situations in which shots have been fired or when they know the person they are going to apprehend is armed.

Mark's lawyer argued during his trial that undercover officers wearing aloha shirts failed to properly identify themselves and that he did not know they were police and was acting in self-defense.

Police said they identified themselves verbally and by lifting their shirts to reveal their badges.

A jury found Mark guilty on the lesser charge of second-degree murder, not first-degree as was sought by prosecutors. He was sentenced to two life terms without parole for shooting and killing Gaspar.

Police had been looking for Mark for a February 2003 shooting at a Moanalua church parking lot.

The suit seeks damages to be determined at trial. The plaintiffs say any award will go to a charitable foundation set up in Gaspar's name.

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