Jonaven Perkins-Sinapati has been in a vegetative state for weeks after a horrific accident that his family and lawyer say was another meeting in a multi-year quarrel with a police officer in Honolulu.
Perkins-Sinapati, 35, was one of five people driven from a car that crashed in Macaha after police allegedly pulled the vehicle off the road as it was exiting a party on September 12th.
Now Perkins-Sinapati nephew Justus Sinapati Mason, 20, who was in the passenger seat of the car, says officers kept the lights off as they chased the vehicle before finally hitting it twice and causing the crash.
“We felt this collision and I looked at my uncle and he tried to correct the steering wheel,” Sinapati Mason told Civil Beat. “And then we felt an extra push and my uncle could not control the vehicle. We were leaving and we hit a ditch. Then we left.”
After the crash, the three officers who were following the car fled the scene and did not immediately provide medical assistance to anyone involved in the accident, according to Sinapati Mason.
This is also the claim in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Dayten Gouveia, a 14-year-old boy who was also thrown out and is now paralyzed from the waist down.
“4Runner (police) got up,” said Sinapati Mason. “When 4Runner hit us he went straight on and left the scene.”
The HPD has not released the names of the officials who have been suspended and the incident is currently under investigation.
“The department has opened criminal administrative investigations into what preceded the Mahaka clash,” HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu wrote in an email. “Three officers have been deprived of police powers. Two have three years of service and the third has 15 years of service. All are assigned to the District 8 (Capolei) patrol. “
But one of the officers has been identified by the family as Officer Joshua Nahulu, who family members say Perkins-Sinapati has encountered several times in previous years.
“We’re going to show a relationship between him and the driver that goes back years — the cop, the driver and his family,” said Michael Green, the attorney representing Perkins-Sinapati. “There has been a revenge going back for years.”
A motor vehicle accident report obtained by Civil Beat shows that Nahulu investigated Perkins-Sinapati in connection with a car accident with another police officer in July 2018.
Numerous witnesses at the party in Maili Beach Park and at the crash site reported seeing Nahulu in both locations, along with two other officers.
“Honestly in 35 years I have never seen anything like it.” – Prosecutor Michael Stern
When Jasmine Teixeira and her boyfriend, Jonaven’s brother John Sinapati, arrived at the scene, they saw Nahulu. He was the same officer who had ruined a party they attended hours ago, Teixeira said.
“He had told us that we could not be there, we could not be at the scene, that he did not know who was in the car,” Teixeira said. “But before that we had a party that night. He was there because the cops were called.”
Following the September 12 incident, a report published on the HPD website said the collision occurred after the vehicle “lost control, went off the road, hit the concrete curb and traveled through an open area” before colliding with trees and continue on a concrete wall. This report has since been removed from the HPD website.
However, Teixeira, Perkins-Sinapati girlfriend Brittany Miyake and Sinapati Mason offered a different story, which began when Nahulu and two other male officers showed up at their beach party. The group began to disperse and Gouveia along with four others boarded Miyake’s car with Perkins-Sinapati behind the wheel.
As soon as they left, officers began to follow them with the lights off, Sinapati Mason said, adding that he saw 4Runner police passing through a red light to continue their pursuit.
As Perkins-Sinapati continued driving, the weight of the crowded car — with six people inside — pushed him to avoid speeds on the road going around them, according to Miyake and Sinapati Mason.
“If (the officer) was trying to pull them off, he should have pulled them out already,” Miyake said. “With all of them in the car, they could not overcome any speeding obstacle, so they went around every speeding hit and the car that was following him had turned off the lights and did not pull them for those offenses, so he was not trying. to withdraw them. “
There was no way to avoid the final speeding collision on the road, so Perkins-Sinapati passed by car, according to Miyake. Passengers in the car looked back and saw the police vehicle just behind them, according to Sinapati Mason.
“I looked in the rearview mirror and saw that 4Runner had released the collision,” said Sinapati Mason, “and in a split second I look back in the rearview mirror and it ‘s behind us.”
Then the police car hit them, causing the accident, he said.
Five of the six passengers in the car were thrown during the crash. Gouveia and Perkins-Sinapati were rushed to hospital in critical condition. Three other passengers were taken to hospital in serious condition.
Since the crash, Gouveia’s condition has improved slightly and he has been able to regain minimal movement in the upper body, said Eric Seitz, Gouveia’s family lawyer.
Doctors say Perkins-Sinapati can stay in the vegetative state for months, according to Green.
Attorney Michael Stern, who represents Sinapati Mason and the other three occupants of the car, said one of his clients suffered rib fractures, right arm fractures and other injuries. Another client suffered a fracture of the spine and has broken ribs, bruised lungs and may lose sight in his left eye.
“He had broken the glass that went into his eyes and face, all over his body actually, and the eye was split in half, so they had to sew it together,” Stern said. “So I’m guessing there won’t be a very good look, or any, after that.”
A lawsuit has already been filed by Seitz on behalf of Gouveia and his parents. Green represents Perkins-Sinapati and has said he will seek damages against the city as well. Stern said he will file a lawsuit in the coming weeks as well.
“Honestly in 35 years I have never seen anything like it,” Stern said. “I’ve seen a lot of horrible accidents, but nothing where basically the police cause it, then try to cover it up, then try to harass the family.”
In the weeks following the crash, Perkins-Sinapati family members and others involved in the accident were contacted by HPD officers, Stern and Miyake said. Perkins-Sinapati’s sister was stopped by police who asked about her brother’s condition, according to Stern. Other occupants of the car were also visited by officers, according to Miyake.
“They asked what happened, what the names of the cops are, maybe just trying to see what we know and, you know, what our story is,” Miyake said.
As of Oct. 1, the three officers remain on limited duty, according to Yu.
Once the HPD Office of Professional Standards has completed its investigation into the crash, the case will go to Honolulu Prosecutor Steven Alm.
“Once their investigation is complete, we will review it, determine if more investigation is required, and ultimately determine if the allegations are justified,” Matthew Dvonch, special adviser to Alm’s office, said in a statement. “As the matter is still under active investigation, we will not be able to comment further on it.”