Honolulu, HI — On the night of March 16, 2015, Sheldon Haleck, 38, made the poor decision of walking down the middle of a street in Honolulu. For the crime of walking down a public road — a misdemeanor citation — this father of two would lose his life at the hands of police who repeatedly pepper sprayed and tasered him until he died. Now, the taxpayers will likely be held accountable as his family seeks justice in the form of a lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Haleck was “pepper-sprayed about a dozen times and shot with a Taser gun as many as three times, all within a span of just five minutes — a timeline corroborated by the defense. Eric Seitz, the family’s attorney, has argued that Haleck wasn’t threatening anyone that night and that traffic already had been stopped along the busy street as officers tried to get him to move to the sidewalk. His only offense was disorderly conduct, a petty misdemeanor.”
Three Honolulu police officers — Christopher Chung, Samantha Critchlow and Stephen Kardash — responded to the scene that night. Only minutes after the officers showed up, Haleck would be on the ground, unresponsive, and eventually dead.
Police claimed that the real threat that night was traffic, not Haleck. Haleck never attacked anyone and all he did was apologize to the officers, repeatedly saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
“The threat there was that there were vehicles in the area and we could be hit at any time,” said Chung.
Chung even admitted in testimony that Haleck was not threatening him and the escalation of force was to get the clearly impaired man out of the road.
“He still placed us in a bad situation,” said Chung, defending his actions that night, pepper spraying Haleck at least 3 times while tasering him.
When Critchlow arrived on the scene, she pepper sprayed Haleck four or five more times, bringing the total douses of spray to his face to eight. Within the course of the next few moments, Haleck would be pepper sprayed four or five more times, while being simultaneously tasered.
“I went there to back up my officer, my fellow officer,” she said, choking up with tears. “Would have been simple like that — just get him out of the road. But it didn’t happen that way.”
Critchlow said their use of force that night was “very reasonable” given the “totality of circumstances.” But was it? The only circumstances was a man walking down the road. Yes he presented a danger to himself and was not responding to orders, but no effort to tackle him or otherwise restrain him took place until he was saturated in pepper spray and tasered multiple times, collapsing to the ground.
What’s more, police claimed that the major threat that night was getting hit by cars. However, the attorneys for Haleck pointed out the fact that traffic had stopped and they were waiting for police to clear the area.
Seitz asked the officers whether or not they thought using a taser and such a massive amount of pepper spray was safe, considering the fact that when they found Haleck, he was already sweating profusely and appeared to be in a diminished mental state from the consumption of drugs.
“Honestly, I’m not sure,” she said. “All I know is that I tried to grab him and that didn’t work. I tried to pepper-spray him and that didn’t work.”
Even more damning is the fact that police claim the tasers never shocked Haleck, but the doctor who treated him that night said she removed two taser darts from his back. “She also testified that there were two puncture wounds on his chest, surrounded by bruising, suggesting that the Taser darts may have hit him there as well,” according to the Star Advertiser.
While many will claim the use of tasers and pepper spray were just in this instance, it is well known that repeatedly tasering people can cause a slew of life-threatening problems. Add several ounces of pepper spray to a taser induced excited delirium and you have a recipe for death. These officers should have known that and now a man who needed help is dead and the only ones paying for it will be the taxpayers.
Below is the disturbing video.
The Honolulu Police Department released video footage showing two officers deploying their electric stun guns on Sheldon Haleck, who died in their custody. Watch Civil Beat's Nick Grube talk about it on KITV at 6 p.m.
Posted by Honolulu Civil Beat on Tuesday, June 30, 2015
If you think that you cannot be pepper sprayed or tasered to death, think again. Taser deaths are an all too common reality among police departments and so is pepper spray.
As TFTP previously reported, Daniel Nagahama, 28, reportedly told Highland Park Police Department officers he’d gotten into a fight with his mother and was pushed out of her car, onto the street. That’s where officers first found the young man, lying face down in the middle of a suburban intersection. But by the end of the June 2016 interaction with police, Nagahama would be pepper sprayed to death, and the prosecutor’s office would spend the next year and a half lying about what really happened that day.