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Parents Sue Hawai‘i County Police For Son's Shooting Death

Dan Buckingham
Courtesy Buckingham family
Dan Buckingham

A Michigan couple filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hawaiʻi County police Wednesday in the fatal shooting of their 31-year-old son Daniel Buckingham in June.

Buckingham was squatting in an unoccupied house in Hilo when he was shot 13 times by police. The lawsuit alleges officers did not announce their identity before drawing their weapons.

Ann Arbor residents Mary and Martin Buckingham don’t buy the narrative put forth by Hawaiʻi County police claiming their son Dan was a “homeless aggressor” who attacked officers before being shot to death. They want answers, but they say they’re being stonewalled by police.

"I think they thought they can get away with it. They thought he was a homeless person that no one was gonna know about and we can give him a voice," Mary Buckingham said. "We want to shine a light on the truth and find out what really happened even if it’s hard for us to hear."

According to the Hawaiʻi County Police Department, Buckingham was the suspect in a June 18 break-in at a home in Hilo. Officers say he allegedly attacked one of the responding officers, cutting the officer in the arm with a knife. Buckingham was later charged with attempted murder.

The Buckinghams say police still haven’t identified the officers who killed Dan or explained why he was shot 13 times seconds after police forced their way into the room where he was. Body-cam footage of the incident was released, but the actual shooting is not caught on that camera.

"Part of the problem is that the police have not been very forthcoming with the family," Honolulu attorney Jim Bickerton of Bickerton Law Group said. He is representing the Buckinghams.

"The people who really should be told what happened and have things explained to them and given information are the immediate relatives," Bickerton said. "Especially in a situation like this where you have someone with no prior history of any violent act. We haven’t been given that type of information at all."

A Hawaiʻi County spokesman provided no comment and says the case is being reviewed by corporation counsel.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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