Case of Hawaii inmate's shooting by CO reportedly sent to prosecutor's office

Police have completed their murder investigation into the March shooting death of a 47-year-old inmate who escaped

By Leila Fujimori
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

HONOLULU, Hawaii — The Honolulu Police Department has completed its murder investigation into the March shooting death of a 47-year-old inmate who escaped and was shot and killed by an Oahu Correctional Center guard in front of a church in a crowded Kalihi neighborhood.

Eric Seitz, attorney for the family of Maurice Arrisgado Jr., said it’s his understanding that police turned the case over to the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office for evaluation on whether to convene a grand jury.

Arrisgado was shot on March 1 at 6:10 p.m. near the corner of Kaumualii Street and Puuhale Road outside St. Anthony Catholic Church. After he was shot, he was placed in a Department of Public Safety van, where he was treated by medical staff until a crew from Emergency Medical Services took him to a hospital.

Seitz said an ambulance should have been called immediately and that Arrisgado should have been transported to a trauma center.

He said it appears Arrisgado escaped “out of their own negligence,” and he alleged that the guard shot Arrisgado in the back as he was running away.

“I doubt he posed a threat at that particular point in time,” he said, adding the guards could have called for backup but didn’t. “It was poorly handled from start to finish,” Seitz said.

This is the second case against a Department of Public Safety officer that has gone to the prosecutor’s office as a second-degree murder case in recent days.

On Friday a Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman confirmed a second-degree murder case against a deputy sheriff in his 30s in the fatal shooting of Delmar Espejo, a 28-year-old disabled man. An autopsy showed that Espejo was shot in the back.

In both cases, Espinda said at news conferences, the victims were shot in the upper torso.

Neither the deputy sheriff nor the prison guard has been identified.

In the Arrisgado shooting, Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda said at a March 2 news conference that the corrections officer had been working with the department since August 2013 and was reassigned to a post where he would be unarmed during investigations by police, the Department of the Attorney General and DPS internal affairs.

He said the decision to use a firearm on an escapee is left to each officer, and deadly force is authorized by law as needed to stop a fleeing inmate.

Arrisgado was being held at OCCC on a $500,000 warrant. He was a probation violator and was suspected of trying to stab a police officer twice while trying to flee while being served a bail revocation warrant.

Preliminary reports showed Arrisgado ran from the intake area in front of the jail following a court appearance. Guards removed his ankle shackles, and he was waiting to be returned to his cell, Espinda said.

He managed to get through the intake area and a release unit, then through a secure door and the front gate as well as the perimeter towers, and ran across Kamehameha Highway into a nearby residential area.

DPS said in an email response to a request for comment: “We’ve been told that when the medical examiner determines the cause of death as homicide in an officer involved shooting, it is not unusual for the case to be conferred as a second degree murder case to the Prosecutors Office. The prosecutors will then determine the next step, which is whether or not to charge anything. As we understand it, at this time, the prosecutor’s office is reviewing the case and has not made any determination.”

Seitz said Arrisgado’s death has been painful for his father, a former deputy prosecutor.

Rather than reaching out to the family, Public Safety officials “dig in their heels and act like adversaries from the start. They’re tragedies.”

But Seitz also blames the rash of officer-involved shootings on the community. “There is insufficient public outrage. They need to speak out sharply against it. We don’t want law enforcement officers killing people, bystanders being killed.”

©2019 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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