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Kona Man Dies in Police Custody, Investigation Underway

February 4, 2014, 12:13 PM HST
* Updated February 4, 10:41 PM
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A Kona man died while in police custody early this morning, and an autopsy has been ordered to determine the cause of death.

The incident began at 12:30 a.m. when a Kona patrol officer made a traffic stop at a gas station in a shopping center on Palani Road.

Following the stop, police arrested the vehicle’s driver, 38-year-old Ernest Ricky Alvarez of Kailua-Kona, on a $10,000 bench warrant for contempt of court.

Meanwhile, Alvarez’s passenger, 39-year-old Randall Hatori also of Kailua-Kona – who police said was wanted for assault and violating restraining orders – fled on foot.

An officer ran after Hatori and a struggle ensued while he attempted to arrest him.

Other officers responded to the scene, and Hatori became unresponsive after he was placed in custody and arrested, police said.

Assistant police Chief Paul Kealoha said because he is not directly involved in the investigation, he could not say whether officers used a Taser on Hatori, or otherwise comment on how he was subdued.

Fire department paramedics arrived and took Hatori to Kona Community Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 1:53 a.m.

Capt. Chad Basque, of the Kona-area Criminal Investigations Division, told Big Island Now that he did not know how long after being restrained by officers that Hatori became unresponsive.

Basque also said he did not know how many officers were involved in the subduing of Hatori.

He said no administrative actions had been taken regarding the officers. Any such actions taken would depend on the ongoing review of the situation, he said.

Basque said at this point, the department is not releasing the names of the police officers involved. He said that may come later depending on the review of the facts and circumstances of the case.

During the struggle, the officer who initially made contact with Hatori sustained lacerations, police said. He was treated at the hospital and released.

Ernest Alvarez, in 2013. HPD photo.

Ernest Alvarez, in 2013. HPD photo.

Meanwhile, Alvarez was taken to the Kona police cellblock where he was also arrested on suspicion of promoting a dangerous drug. He remains in custody, without charges, while detectives continue that investigation.

A coroner’s inquest has been launched in connection with Hatori’s death.

As is standard practice in any death involving police, the department’s Criminal Investigation Section will conduct an investigation into its circumstances, and the Office of Professional Standards will conduct an administrative investigation.

***Updated 1:17 p.m. and 4:33 p.m.***

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