Last month, The Root reported that 29-year-old South African man Lindani Myeni was fatally shot by Honolulu, Hawaii, police officers after he removed his shoes and then entered the home of two tourists who then called the police even though he is seen on RING video apologizing to the couple before leaving peacefully. Myeni’s wife filed a wrongful death lawsuit claiming that the shooting was racially motivated on the part of the officers, but last Wednesday, officials dismissed the claim along with any chance of seeing justice served on Myeni’s behalf as it has been decided that the shooting was justified and that race played no part in it.
“We did not find any evidence that race played any part in this case,” Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said during a press conference, KHON 2 reports.
As we previously reported, video footage of the incident shows a couple entering the home with Myeni following behind. He removes his shoes before he enters and less than a minute later he is seen leaving the home and apologizing to the occupants, one of whom is frantic as she points Myeni out to the police moments later.
The video also shows the altercation and struggle between Myeni and the officers, the first of whom didn’t announce himself as an officer when confronting Myeni. Not much time passed between the initial confrontation between Myeni and the officers and the time shots are fired, just as not much time passed between Myeni entering the home and then leaving. (Myeni’s wife’s 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.) However, Alm said that plenty happened in those short moments and that it all actually started before the alleged home invasion (which was reported as an attempted burglary) even took place.
Alm says the bizarre string of events actually started about a half hour prior to the shooting at Kewalo Basin.
That’s where, at 7:42 pm, four other officers went to investigate a call for an unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle, during which Myeni tried to intervene in the investigation, asked an officer for money for food, and tried to get into the back seat of an HPD vehicle.
After that incident, investigators say Myeni drove directly to 91 Coelho Way, where the shooting took place. Alm describes Myeni’s behavior that night as strange and bizarre. He adds that by the time Myeni fought with the three officers in Nuuanu, he should have known that they were police officers.
Alm says Myeni’s strange behavior continued when he went inside the Nuuanu house and told the woman who was staying there, “I have videos of you. You know why I’m here.” He then said he lived in the house, and a cat that was in the house was his. Alm says Myeni stayed inside for five minutes even though she asked him to leave several times and told him she was calling the police.
“And he said, ‘Tell them I’m from South Africa. I’m on a hunt. I’m on a safari.’ He lowered his feathered headband, and he said, ‘We’re hunting and there’s no time,’” said Alm.
Alm says Myeni told her that he is not afraid of the police.
“Him saying that I’m not afraid of the police, I think it’s a glimpse into what his attitude was toward the police officers or toward the police in general,” said Alm.
He adds that the street lights were bright, so it’s easy to see that the officers had their uniforms on. He said two of the officers fired at Myeni and that the shooting was justified because they tried using non-lethal means, but Myeni kept fighting, and the officers feared for their safety.
“Even after verbal commands, a firing of a Taser, yelling about Taser, actually getting shot by Officer 1, Mr. Myeni would not stop his attack on Officer 1,” said Alm.
Even if everything happened the way Alm said it did, it sounds like Myeni was suffering from some kind of mental issue and three armed and trained officers were unable to get an unarmed man under control without using deadly force. Attorneys have also questioned why an unarmed man needed to be approached with guns drawn when he was leaving the premises and after not having done anything violent. (One of the occupants of the home can be heard telling 911 dispatch that Myeni had left the home calmly.)
As for the possibility that Myeni had simply walked into the wrong home after mistaking it for a temple, Alm sharply dismissed that during the news conference.
“If in fact, Mr. Myeni was looking for the temple, it would have taken him maybe a few seconds after getting into the house to realize oh, no temple, wrong place, turn around, leave,” Alm said ignoring the fact that, regardless of it taking more than a few seconds for Myeni to leave, he did leave without harming anyone and was even apologizing for being there in the first place.
Anyway, an attorney for Myeni’s wife said they are still moving forward with the lawsuit and he cited everything Alm left out of his report as the reason.
“Mr. Alm’s focus on the shooting ignored the first action of ordering an unarmed person to lie on the ground at gunpoint,” the attorney said in a statement, KHON reports. “That is ordinarily the crime of terroristic threatening, kidnapping, or reckless endangering.”