KEALAKEKUA — A former Hawaii County police officer faces up to a year in jail after jurors on Friday found him guilty of misdemeanor negligent homicide for fatally striking a cyclist more than three years ago.
The 12-member jury returned the verdict finding former officer Jody Buddemeyer guilty of third-degree negligent homicide, a lesser included offense after deliberating on the case for nearly six hours following closing arguments Friday. The officer had faced first-degree negligent homicide, a class B felony that carried a prison term of up to 10 years.
They also found Buddemeyer not guilty of evidence tampering and false reporting to law enforcement.
“I do appreciate the jury’s decision,” Deputy Prosecutor Kauanoe Jackson said Friday evening. “The state understands it was a difficult case and believes the jury did their best with the evidence presented.”
Buddemeyer declined to comment after the verdict. His Defense Counselor Brian De Lima spoke on his behalf.
“We appreciate the hard work of the jury in looking at the evidence and applying the law and respect their decision,” he said.
He faces up to one year incarceration and a maximum fine of $2,000 at sentencing, which has been scheduled for Nov. 30.
Jackson told 3rd Circuit Court Judge Melvin Fujino Friday evening that the family of Jeffrey Surnow, the Michigan man killed in the March 1, 2015, crash, would like to provide input on the sentencing.
Charges stem from a car accident on March 1, 2015, when Buddemeyer fatally struck cyclist Jeffrey Surnow from behind while traveling east in his police subsidized vehicle on Waikoloa Road. The prosecution asserted throughout the trial the former officer falsely reported the crash when he called it into dispatch as a hit-and-run.
Jackson argued Buddemeyer “methodically and thoughtfully” concealed broken car parts in his vehicle and misled fellow officers who responded to the scene by telling them he had hit a pig.
De Lima asserted Buddemeyer was fatigued at the time of the crash due to working a double-back shift. He questioned court-appointed doctors who indicated the former officer suffered from acute stress upon seeing Surnow’s body, which led to him behaving in a dissociative state.