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Man dies while being taken into custody

February 5, 2014 - 6:28am

A Kailua-Kona man died in police custody early Tuesday morning following a traffic stop and foot chase that crossed Palani Road.

The Hawaii County Police Department identified the man as 39-year-old Randall Makaalu Hatori, who was wanted on warrants for assault and violating temporary restraining orders.

Hatori was a passenger in a vehicle stopped by Kona patrol officers around 12:30 a.m. at the Tesoro gas station on Palani Road. The driver of the vehicle was identified as 38-year-old Ernest Ricky Alvarez of Kailua-Kona, according to police.

Alvarez was arrested and charged on a $10,000 bench warrant for contempt of court. He was also arrested on suspicion of third-degree promoting a dangerous drug, according to police.

The passenger, Hatori, allegedly ran, and an officer pursued him. A struggle ensued during the arrest, and Hatori reportedly “went unresponsive,” Area II Criminal Investigations Section Capt. Chad Basque said. He was unable to say if Hatori had been placed in a choke hold by the arresting officer.

“I haven’t reviewed any of the reports that came over from the patrol side yet with those specifics,” he said, adding that the autopsy was scheduled for today. “Then we’ll get the full report on that.”

Hawaii County Fire Department personnel were summoned to the scene and transported Hatori to Kona Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:53 a.m., according to police.

When asked if the Tuesday morning cordoning off of the Kailua-Kona Post Office was related to the police-involved death, Basque said Hatori ran from the gas station and continued across Palani Road toward the area.

The pursuing officer, whom Basque described as a newer officer, suffered minor injuries including lacerations. The officer was treated and released at the hospital and returned to duty, Basque said.

Police did not identify the officer. Basque told West Hawaii Today that the officer was not placed on leave.

Basque said the arresting officer did have backup officers with him.

“When it happened, I don’t know how many officers were there, but there were at least he and one other on the scene,” he said. “And as time goes by, more people show up. I don’t know how many were there when he finally went unresponsive.”

Basque said Alvarez was taken without incident.

“From what I’ve heard, he was cooperative with us,” he said.

According to court records, Hatori, who is listed as 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing 250 pounds, had eight convictions; four for felonies, including burglary, being a felon in possession of a firearm, third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and drug paraphernalia. He also had misdemeanor convictions for reckless endangering, domestic abuse, and contempt of court, and a petty misdemeanor conviction for harassment.

Police have initiated a coroner’s inquest investigation in connection with Hatori’s death. The autopsy will be part of the investigation.

The Kona Criminal Investigations Section will also investigate the death and the circumstances leading to it, and the Office of Professional Standards, which is the internal affairs unit, will conduct an administrative investigation. Police said those are standard procedures in any police-involved death.

West Hawaii Today reporter Chelsea Jensen contributed to this report.

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