BY JIM DOOLEY – The sister of Hawaii Five-0 Teamsters Union supervisor Aaron Torres has sued the Honolulu Police Department, alleging that officers “intentionally and maliciously” killed Torres while subduing him during an early morning altercation at his Nanakuli home in February.
A second lawsuit is expected to be filed next week on behalf of Michele Torres, widow of Aaron Torres, according to her attorney, Michael Green.
The Medical Examiner’s officer determined that Torres, 37, was in a “cocaine-induced excited delirium” when three police officers asphyxiated him by sitting and lying on him outside his house.
The federal court lawsuit filed this week alleges that the officers caused the “unnecessary and untimely death” of Torres while family members pleaded with police “to cease and desist their excessive actions.”
The suit was filed on behalf of Torres’ sister, Tassa Torres, by attorney Andre Wooten.
Green said he is preparing his own suit to be filed “probably next week” on behalf of Michele Torres.
The Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of Torres’ death to be homicide but the Prosecuting Attorney’s office declined to press charges against the officers involved, finding that they used reasonable force in the struggle with Torres.
Officers went to Torres’ Kaukai Road home Feb. 20 following a series of early morning telephone calls between Torres and emergency 911 operators, according to transcripts of the calls released to Hawaii Reporter by the Police Department.
After a first brief call from Torres to police at 4:27 a.m. ended abruptly, a police dispatcher called Torres back and asked him if he needed assistance.
“Yeah, help…help…help, please,” Torres said.
Tassa Torres’ suit said she lived in a nearby house with her grandmother. When “she heard loud voices outside (she) went to investigate and found three police officers arguing with her younger brother,” the suit said.
Aaron Torres “was saying there was no reason to arrest him and the officers were indicating they were going to arrest him for something,” the suit alleged.
After handcuffing Torres, the officers threw him to ground; one sat on his back, another on his head and neck and a third “was shackling Aaron’s legs while Aaron was yelling that they were hurting him,” the suit said.
“The officers seemed to her to be holding her brother down on the ground for what seemed like at least 30 minutes,” Tassa Torres alleged in the suit.
“They kept telling him to stop moving and Aaron kept yelling that they were hurting him,” the lawsuit said.
“Now it seems clear that he was just moving, trying to breathe because of the way the officers pressed his face into the dirt,” the lawsuit said.
After Torres stopped moving, the officers turned him over and Tassa Torres saw that there was dirt in Aaron’s nose and mouth from the way the officers held his face in the dirt,” the lawsuit said.
An ambulance was called and Torres was later pronounced dead.
Tassa Torres is seeking $10 million in damages from the city.
Captains oversee the movement of a wide and expensive array of trucks, vans, trailers and specialty equipment used on a network television series like Hawaii Five-0.
Torres had a minor criminal record, with convictions for misdemeanor assault and three petty misdemeanor offenses.
The Medical Examiner’s Office said Torres had “a history of cocaine abuse.”
The autopsy report, written by forensic pathologist Dr. Kanthi De Alwis, said Torres died “as a result of asphyxiation during restraint by police officers when they were laying on the decedent while he was in a prone position and struggling during cocaine induced excited delirium.”
The report said Torre was 5’4” and weighed 178 pounds when he died.
Green, the attorney for Michele Torres, told Hawaii Reporter earlier this year that “citizens are not supposed to die in this type of confrontation.”
Police officers “are trained to be able, within a minute or two, to take a suspect, even a much larger suspect, and reduce that person to a point where they can’t fight back,” Green said.
“The family of this young man were just beside themselves when they watched the barrage on this young man until he died,” said Green.
“People (were) screaming out to stop, leave him alone and don’t do that,” Green said witnesses told him.
“He’s not one of these guys who’s 6 feet four, 350 pounds. He was a little guy. And there were at least three police officers there,” Green said.
In a May 14 story, Hawaii Reporter detailed the long history of drug and violence-related incidents involving Teamsters Union members who drive on Hawaii film and television productions.
After Torres died, CBS, which produces Hawaii Five-0 through a subsidiary called Eye Productions, Inc., declined to comment on whether it checks the criminal histories or conducts drug tests of crew and cast members.