Police Conduct Questioned

Police conduct questioned

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Inaction during palace fracas would be serious breach, governor says

By John Windrow and Will Hoover

Advertiser Staff Writers

Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday that it would be a serious breach of the oath taken by Ho-nolulu Police officers if reports are true that an officer stood by and did nothing while a palace employee was roughed up during a takeover of ‘Iolani Palace by an activist group on Friday.

The governor was also concerned about an unconfirmed report that a caller from inside the palace who dialed 911 during the fracas was also told, “It’s not our jurisdiction,” she said yesterday.

“It’s so serious that if either or both (of the allegations) is true, then there has been a serious breakdown in the law enforcement oath that people take,” said Lingle.

Meanwhile, Honolulu Police Chief Boisse Correa issued a statement yesterday that he has ordered an internal review of the department’s initial response.

Correa’s statement said police assistance was requested by the state Department of Public Safety, which itself was assisting the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which is responsible for palace security.

“As a result of the request, I authorized that all necessary resources be provided,” the statement said. “The actions taken by our officers (on Friday night) were appropriate.”

Authorities arrested 23 individuals with a group that locked gates around the palace, allegedly broke into the adjacent barracks building and raised a flag on the barracks flagpole. The group was identified as the Kingdom of Hawai’i Nation in a news release from the palace.

Shaken employees of the palace locked themselves in the palace and a nearby administration building.

At one point, witnesses said Friday, three men shoved aside the palace employee as she attempted to allow someone onto the grounds. The incident occurred near the diamondhead-side gate.

The incident began about 4:30 p.m. on Statehood Day, an observance of Hawai’i becoming the 50th state on Aug. 21, 1959.

Kippen de Alba Chu, executive director of the Friends of ‘Iolani Palace, yesterday identified the employee who reportedly was assaulted as Noelani Ah Yuen, saying she was not seriously injured. Attempts to reach Ah Yuen were not successful yesterday.

Chu said he remains worried about safety at the palace.

“Because of what happened, I’m worried for the safety of our employees and our visitors if this happens again and if someone were to call 911,” he said.

Lingle said people should not jump to any conclusions until the facts are known.

At this point, she stressed, the allegations are only rumors. However, she added that if it turns out there’s any truth to either, “We’ll need to sit down with the mayor, the council and the police commission and talk this through.”

“But I want to caution everyone to reserve judgment until we know what the facts are.”

Fullest Prosecution

As far as the palace takeover, Lingle said it is important to make an example of those who knowingly “desecrate a state and national monument in this way.

“… I spoke to the attorney general yesterday, as well as the director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and there is unanimous agreement about prosecuting (those responsible) to the fullest extent of the law.”

DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said yesterday that the palace would be closed at least through the weekend.

“We are continuing our investigation into what happened and no further comment would be appropriate at this time,” she said.

Public access will be restricted “until it is possible for us to assess any damage and to ensure the palace doors are secure … . We regret that we are unable to share the palace with visitors until the assessment is complete,” a statement from the palace said.

Lingle said the DLNR is in the process of reviewing the rules regarding ‘Iolani Palace security. Those rules need to be rewritten in order to restrict access to maintain security, she said.

“It’s always a balance between having access for the public — because it belongs to the public —

but also protecting it.”

Law enforcement officers from the DLNR remained on palace grounds overnight and into the early morning hours yesterday.

Fifteen of those arrested face misdemeanor trespassing charges and were released. But eight of the protesters were arrested on suspicion of second-degree burglary, a Class C felony under Hawai’i law punishable by up to five years in prison.

Those arrested on suspicion of burglary were listed on the arrest log as His Majesty Akahi Nui, leader of the group; as well as Wayne Nunes, Vinessa Fimbres, Tanya Kaahanui and Terry Kaahanui.

Also arrested on suspicion of burglary were Donald Love-Boltz, Waynette Nunes and Akahi Wahine.

Akahi Nui, a retired heavy equipment operator from Ha’iku, Maui, was released pending investigation. He said yesterday he’ll be back.

“I plan it. I know I can take it over. With the help of God, I will take it over,” he said.

Akahi Nui has a criminal record with 20 prior charges, including four felonies.

“Everybody when they’re young, they do a lot of mistakes. Your parents say not to do that, you still do that. I got plenty of charges, yes,” he said. The charges were for burglary and assault and battery, he said.

The DLNR officers at the palace yesterday were backed up by a group of eight deputy sheriffs who kept watch over the grounds from the pedestrian mall between the state Capitol and the palace grounds.

Officers at the scene yesterday said all was quiet throughout the night after the initial arrests were made.

Heavy chains were fastened around most of the gates leading onto the palace property.

DLNR security vehicles were parked behind closed gates leading to the palace grounds on the Richards Street and state library sides of the palace property.

The Associated Press and staff writer David Waite contributed to this report.

Reach John Windrow at jwindrow@honoluluadvertiser.com and Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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