A veteran Hawaii police officer could face charges for beating and pepper-spraying a man who was bothering an endangered seal on a beach.
According to the Daily Mail, officer Ming Wang received a call that a man was abusing an endangered seal near Nanakuli, Hawaii. Before Wang arrived, a civilian had begun filming 41-year-old Jamie Kilani Rice as he pestered the Hawaiian monk seal by throwing sand on it. The footage even shows a sign that orders beach-goers not to bother the endangered seals.
The animal’s behavior makes it very clear that it wanted Rice to leave it alone, but the man continued to toss sand at the endangered seal for at least six minutes. When Officer Wang finally arrives, he orders Jamie Kilani Rice to leave the beach. Rice seemingly screams something at the cop, which prompts him to draw his baton and pepper spray. Eventually, the man stops harassing the endangered seal and walks away. That’s when the video takes a violent turn.
While the two men are off in the distance, Ming Wang begins repeatedly striking Jamie Kilani Rice with his baton and pepper-sprays him in the face. Rice has a strangely subdued reaction to the attacks and stands perfectly still — that is until Officer Wang swings his baton into the back of his knee, knocking him to the ground. Wang continues to beat the man and apparently kicks him in the back before handcuffing him.
According to the Huffington Post, the ones filming this incident were actually volunteers from an endangered seal watch group. They advocate for the rare species of Hawaiian monk seal, of which there are only about 1,060 left on the planet. Anyone caught harassing an endangered seal could face fines of $25,000 or more, as well as five years in prison.
Despite the fact that Jamie Kilani Rice obviously broke the law by bothering the endangered seal, Officer Ming Wang could now be facing charges of his own for police brutality. Prosecutors declined to press charges when the event took place last year, but now are reviewing the footage to reconsider the possibility of taking Officer Wang to trial.
Ming Wang’s police report claims that he repeatedly informed Jamie Kilani Rice that he was under arrest for harassing the endangered seal, but he was not listening. Rice began to walk away from the officer, ignoring his commands. That’s when Officer Wang resorted to violence to get Rice to comply.
The repeated beatings reportedly left Jamie Kilani Rice with broken bones in his hand. An attorney representing Rice is preparing to sue the city for police brutality, according to Hawaii News Now.
“This guy was a threat to no one other than the seal,” said Attorney Michael Green. “And the seal and he had parted ways long before that. This is shameful.”
The family of Jamie Kilani Rice claims he is a homeless man who suffers from bipolar disorder. After his arrest, Rice informed police that he believed the endangered seal was ill and was trying to heal it by rubbing sand in his hands and throwing it on the animal.
The man was convicted of harassing a monk seal and, after accepting a plea deal, was sentenced to five days in jail.
What do you think? Should Wang be held responsible for police brutality, or did he do the right thing by defending the endangered seal?
For more about endangered seals, read about what is killing them.
[Photos via YouTube]