Two months ago, a Black man was fatally shot by Honolulu police. The police, of course, claimed that the man refused to follow their orders and violently attacked them before he was shot. Ring video from a residence shows the man asking who the cops were, and it showed that a police officer waited until after several shots were fired to shout “police.” It’s a horrifying story that ends the way many horrifying stories in America end—with a Black person dead because someone was afraid.
The Associated Press reports that Lindani Myeni, a South African man who had been living in Hawaii for three months with his wife and children, was shot and killed on April 14. His wife, Lindsay Myeni, who grew up in Hawaii, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the police department, alleging that her husband was shot because he was Black.
The incident began when Myeni arrived at a house and took his shoes off before entering. Video footage from the home’s doorbell camera shows him walking into the home just after a couple walked in. Lawyers representing Lindsay said the couple were tourists staying in a “multi-unit dwelling,” AP reports. Less than a minute later, Myeni is seen exiting the home and repeatedly apologizing to the occupants, which would lead any rational person to think he had simply walked into the wrong place. (The attorneys said that he likely mistook the house for a similar looking home next door that houses a temple that is open to the public.)
What the police reported is that Myeni—who was wearing a face mask and a umqhele, which is a traditional Zulu headband—exhibited strange behavior that frightened the occupants and that he violently attacked officers, giving one of them a concussion.
Police later released short clips of body camera footage, showing him ignoring commands to get on the ground outside the house he entered, a stun gun fired by police either malfunctioning or having no effect on him. The police video showed that an officer fired several gunshots before saying, “Police!”
Police officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday after the widow’s lawyers released the video. Now-retired chief Susan Ballard previously said that Myeni’s race wasn’t a factor in the fatal shooting.
“Mr. Myeni’s death is tragic,” Mayor Rick Blangiardi said in a statement. “We await both sides making their arguments in court, consequently I have no further comment at this time.”
A statement from the lawyers who released the video said Honolulu police “tried to convince the public that this was a burglary and that Lindani Myeni was acting erratically; but the doorbell video we have now obtained from the owner shows that HPD knew all along these stories were untrue.”
The statement added: “We have also compelled the City to turn over unredacted body cam footage in its original format, producing much better quality audio and images than the version that HPD played for the press on April 16, 2021.”
What the Ring video shows is that Myeni was trying to leave the premises when the cops arrived. Much of the audio in the video is inaudible, but the attorneys said the woman in the home pretended to make a phone call while Myeni was outside saying he had broken into their home, just before she actually called 911. In audio from the 911 call, a dispatcher can be heard asking the woman if the man had any weapons, to which the woman answered no. Meanwhile, the man in the home can be heard telling someone that Myeni had calmly apologized and left—but the woman was still frantic. She can be heard crying and screaming hysterically in the doorbell video even though Myeni was clearly away from the home. When the cops arrived she could be seen pointing and screaming “That’s him!”
According to the attorneys, Myeni could not have possibly recognized that the people confronting him were police officers as it was dark, they had their flashlights in his face and they had not announced themselves as police before the shooting started. They also said they are currently reviewing the full, unedited police body-cam footage of the shooting.