[NOTE: This post has been updated with additional information from the Maui Police Department. Update is below.]
In response to heightened awareness around the world of police shootings in the U.S., London’s Guardian newspaper started a new website called The Counted, which provides a running tally of people killed by American cops this year for whatever reason. The site also displays the data by region, race and a variety of other metrics. Of particular fascination: The Counted’s ranking of shootings indicates that Hawaii is ranked fifth in the nation for police shootings on a per capita basis (but 34th in real numbers).
At press time, the site lists 512 people. Not all have names, either–the words “Unknown Gunshot” appear throughout the list. But missing from the list is the Maui PD-shooting on June 13 in Wailuku. Details are still sketchy–and contradictory, depending on where you read them–but what’s clear is that a man is dead.
Let’s start with what everyone seems to agree on. At about 4:30pm on Saturday, June 13, a Maui Police cruiser pulled over a black SUV on Lower Main Street in Wailuku–what the MPD later referred to in its first press release sent out that afternoon as a “traffic stop.” According to the MPD, things escalated quickly:
“The adult male passenger immediately exited the vehicle and an exchange of gun fire ensued,” stated the first MPD press release. A second press release, sent out a few hours later, provided a few more details: “Investigation revealed that the passenger exited the vehicle and shot at the police officers first while fleeing. The officers returned gun fire striking the responsible. The responsible was taken to the hospital for treatment, however, later expired.”
Ok. Cops pull over an SUV, but the passenger jumps out and starts shooting at the officers. They pull their weapons and return fire. The passenger is struck, goes down and is taken to the hospital, where he later dies.
Except stories published over the next few days by Hawaii News Now and The Maui News add one detail completely missing from the MPD news release–a detail provided by an apparent eyewitness.
“I think the cops got him in the leg, and he fell down, when he fell down, that’s when he turned the gun on himself,” witness Alfred Ayers says in Hawaii News Now’s June 14 story (a witness requesting anonymity said much the same in The Maui News June 14 story as well).
It’s a horrifying detail–one that, if true, changes the MPD’s narrative pretty radically. So what really happened? According to the Maui PD, “the officers return[ing] gunfire” were responsible for the SUV passenger’s fatal injuries. But at least one and possibly two eyewitnesses say that the passenger was just clipped in the leg and then killed himself.
Lt. William Juan, the MPD’s spokesperson, didn’t return an email asking about the news accounts and eyewitness statements by press time.
UPDATE: According to a press release sent out on the afternoon of June 15, the “deceased has been identified as Shawn Akamine (46), of Wailuku.” What’s more, the MPD is now confirming that “Akamine shot himself during the altercation with police.”
According to the department, two officers were involved in the shooting. One is a five-year veteran of the force, and the other is a four-year veteran. Both are on paid leave pending the department’s investigation, according to the latest news release.
Photo of the site of the June 13, 2014 Maui PD shooting: MauiTime
Photo of Shawn Akamine: Maui Police