Driver, not Honolulu police, is at fault for teen's injuries, city alleges

·4 min read

Oct. 16—Court documents filed by city attorneys Friday argue that Honolulu police are not responsible for an alleged high-speed pursuit on the Leeward Coast that left a 14-year-old boy paralyzed, countering that the driver of the car that crashed is to blame for the tragedy.

The city's response to the filed by the teen's parents does not contain any details or mention of the incident, nor does it name the Honolulu Police Department or the officers involved.

Dennis and Ualani Gouveia are suing HPD and the city in connection with the Sept. 12 crash that left their son paralyzed from the waist down.

"The Plaintiffs or minor's injuries or damages are the result of the wrongful or negligent conduct of other individuals including but not limited to, the co-defendants Johnathon Sinapati and Brittany Miyake, " wrote city Corporation Counsel Dana Viola and Deputy Corporation Counsel Derek Mayeshiro.

Sinapati, who remains hospitalized, is the alleged driver, and Miyake is the registered owner of the car.

The Gouveias' attorney, Eric Seitz, claims that 15-year HPD veteran Joshua Nahulu, a patrol officer, had an ongoing feud with Sinapati. According to Seitz, Nahulu led two other patrol officers in a pursuit of the car Sinapati was driving after the three officers found him at an early morning party at Maili Beach Park.

After Nahulu, who was driving an HPD-subsidized SUV, and the two other officers, each with three years of service, saw Sinapati crash, they fled the scene without helping the victims, Seitz said. The trio reportedly pretended they didn't know what happened when a 911 dispatcher sent them to the scene of the crash, a ruse witnesses at the scene quickly dismissed, he said.

"The Complaint fails to state a claim against City upon which relief can be granted, " wrote city attorneys.

The Gouveias' claims are "barred because the alleged injuries or damages, if any, were not the result of any act or omission by the City or its employees, but were due to the acts or omissions of others, and /or third parties over whom the City and its employees had no control, or by other superseding interventions outside of the City and its employees' control."

Acting Honolulu Police Chief Rade Vanic did not respond to questions about the allegations against the officers or the response filed by city attorneys on behalf of HPD.

"The City gives notice that it may rely on the defense that employees (were ) acting outside the course and scope of employment, " wrote Viola and Mayeshiro.

Seitz has said the 14-year-old boy randomly jumped into the vehicle with Sinapati after police arrived to break up the gathering and the people he went to the beach park with had left.

"I don't have any indication they (HPD ) are going to give us anything, " Seitz said. "The kid is paralyzed in the hospital, and we need money to get him what he needs ... and they don't care. I have no indication they have any concerns about the welfare of my client or his family."

Surveillance video from three Leeward Coast businesses that was reviewed by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser appears to show the police vehicles chasing the car full of revelers shortly before it crashed. In the footage, the police vehicles do not have their blue lights on or flashing and are seen driving back in the opposite direction shortly after Sinapati's car crashed.

None of the footage acquired by Seitz so far shows the moment Sinapati's car left the roadway.

The official police description of the incident that was posted on HPD's website describes it as a "single-vehicle crash " at about 3 :51 a.m. Sept. 12 and does not mention a high-speed chase of suspects who were allegedly violating park closure rules and other laws.

According to Honolulu Emergency Medical Serv ­ices, paramedics responded at 3 :47 a.m. to a report of a motor vehicle crash with six patients at 84-1092 Farring ­ton Highway.

EMS said the westbound vehicle was driving at an "unknown rate of speed ... veered to the right and somehow lost control, causing (the ) car to roll over and land on its side " in the yard of a home.

Although six people were injured, one of them had left the scene before ambulances arrived, the EMS report said. Four people were ejected from the vehicle.

Five of the injured were males ranging in age from 14 to 18, and the other was in his 30s.

"The three officers had their police powers removed following the incident, and the criminal and administrative investigations are ongoing, " said Michelle Yu, HPD spokeswoman, in a statement to the Star-Advertiser.

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