Police sued in mistreatment of Kihei lawyer

Maui police officers are accused in a federal civil rights lawsuit of beating a Kihei man and his 16-year-old son at their residence in February 2011, shooting the father numerous times with a Taser and falsely arresting them.

According to the suit filed Feb. 8 in U.S. District Court in Honolulu, Christopher F. Carroll, a Maui attorney, and his son, Duke-Patrick Carroll, were beaten and arrested at their home on Feb. 11, 2011. Police had come to the residence to serve a temporary restraining order and to seize the elder Carroll’s firearm.

The lawsuit does not name individual officers. It alleges that the assault occurred on the landing of Carroll’s residence and on stairs and the tile floor just inside the front door.

An officer told Christopher Carroll, who faced officers alone initially, that police were serving a restraining order on him and demanded that he surrender his rifle.

“Mr. Carroll responded to (the officer’s) demand for his rifle by stating that he was the registered owner of a shotgun located in the garage but that he had the right to place the weapon with a friend or neighbor,” the complaint says.

Carroll told the officers that “if an officer is going to enforce the law, the officer should know the law first,” the complaint alleges. “Without warning and without any provocation from Mr. Carroll, Mr. Carroll was forcefully grabbed by (officers) who were surrounding him on his landing.

“Mr. Carroll was shoved back against the open door and was grabbed, pushed and shoved from all sides” by the officers “until he fell through his open front door and on to the tile floor on the inside landing,” the complaint says. He maintained that he did not resist arrest.

“As Mr. Carroll fell to the tile floor, he struck his head on the wall and ultimately landed in a fetal position on his back,” the complaint alleges.

An officer went through the front door and shot Carroll, who had managed to regain a standing position, with a Taser without warning, it says.

“The initial Taser pulse caused Mr. Carroll to stiffen up and fall to his back on the tile steps,” the complaint alleges. “As Mr. Carroll lay on his back, (the second officer) continued to pulse the Taser into Mr. Carroll.”

Carroll was able to stand up shakily and take a step backward when the second officer proceeded to pulse the Taser several more times, causing Carroll to fall to his tile floor, the complaint says.

Hearing the commotion, Carroll’s son, Duke, ran to the staircase from his bedroom and tried to help his father, it says.

“Duke cried out, ‘What are you doing to my dad? He’s almost 70 years old! Back off! You’re going to kill him!’ ” the complaint reports.

As the son approached his father, an officer pushed the teenager with his fist and said, “We are arresting your dad for assault to a police officer. Unless you want to join him, stay back,” according to the complaint.

Then an officer weighing more than 200 pounds, “flung himself on top of Mr. Carroll, aggressively kneed and elbowed Mr. Carroll’s head, face, arms and neck into the staircase,” the complaint alleges. When the beating stopped, Carroll tried to get up and back away but, he “felt another pulse from (the second officer’s) Taser and was again flung down to the steps in screaming and convulsing pain.”

Carroll was arrested and taken to a police vehicle “with the hooks and wires of the Taser still embedded in his chest,” the complaint says.

When Carroll’s son demanded an explanation for his father’s arrest, “Duke was grabbed by (police officers), slammed into the hood and windshield of a police vehicle, handcuffed and placed into the back of a police vehicle,” the complaint says.

The elder Carroll was arrested and charged with assault of a police officer and disorderly conduct. His son was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, the complaint says.

While being processed at the Maui Police Department headquarters, Christopher Carroll was served with a restraining order.

The Carrolls were never formally arraigned for the charges against them, the complaint says.

The officers are accused of assault and battery, false arrest and imprisonment, and violating the Carrolls’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. The amendment also requires officers to take action with a warrant approved by a judge and supported by probable cause. Other claims include the intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and negligent training, supervision and/or discipline.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified general, special and punitive damages.

The Carrolls’ Honolulu attorney, Eric Seitz, said he was in settlement discussions with the county.

He said he understood the matter was being discussed this week with the Maui County Council.

“We’re waiting for them to get back to us,” he said Wednesday afternoon.

The matter was taken up and then deferred Monday by members of the council’s Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. A draft resolution does not specify a settlement amount. A memorandum to the committee from Deputy Corporation Counsel Richard Rost told committee members an early settlement conference had been scheduled for Nov. 20 in federal court.

In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Rost said the council had not authorized a settlement in the case.

The Maui Police Department conducted an internal affairs investigation and found that the officers’ use of force and the arrests of the Carrolls were appropriate, he said.

When asked whether Christopher Carroll was hospitalized with injuries, Rost said his understanding was that he “did not have any obvious injuries.” He said Carroll told medics to leave the Taser prongs in his body “as evidence.”

Officers went to Carroll’s residence to remove a shotgun and serve a temporary restraining order, Rost said. When Carroll refused to hand over the firearm, that was a violation of law, he said.

When he struggled with officers, Carroll kicked one of them, he said.

Although Carroll was put under arrest, “I don’t believe he was ever criminally prosecuted,” Rost said.

Seitz said there has been a minimal amount of disclosures and no depositions in the case to try to keep costs minimal and to “see if we can settle it at an early stage.” When asked why individual officers were not named in the lawsuit, he said he has not received police reports that would allow him to identify specific officers.

* Brian Perry can be reached at