Attorney accuses HPD of showing Arakawa lenience in past incidents

Thursday, November 2, 2000

By Rod Ohira

Star-Bulletin

A recently retired Honolulu police officer involved in last month's fatal collision on Pali Highway may have been "let go" in the past after being stopped for driving under the influence, says an attorney.

"We're aware of several situations of drinking by the officer that may not have been properly handled" by the Honolulu Police Department, attorney Richard Fried said of Clyde Arakawa.

Fried filed suit yesterday on behalf of Rod and Susan Ambrose, whose 19-year-old daughter, Dana, was killed Oct. 7. The suit names Arakawa and two restaurant/bars as defendants.

"Yes, I'm inferring that," Fried said when asked if he was referring to Arakawa being stopped for DUI prior to the Oct. 7 incident and then let go. "We aren't making these charges lightly."

Until his Oct. 8 arrest for negligent homicide and DUI, court records show no prior incidents related to Arakawa driving under the influence.

But Fried said there were "several" incidents -- "certainly more than one" -- but declined to discuss his sources for the allegations. Chief Lee Donohue is refusing to comment because of pending litigation, said HPD spokeswoman Jean Motoyama.

Arakawa, 49, has not yet been charged with any criminal offense. He is presently in Oregon, said Fried.

Alex Garcia of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers confirmed that Arakawa, who had planned to retire after 25 years with the department, did so on Oct. 31.

The Oct. 7 incident occurred while Arakawa was on vacation.

The suit also names Tropic's Diner Inc. and Side Street Ventures Inc., doing business as Side Street Inn, as defendants. The two establishments served and sold Arakawa liquor on Oct.7 while he was intoxicated, the suit says.

Fried said Arakawa started drinking between 4 and 5 p.m. at Tropic's Diner on Auahi Street. After about five hours there, Arakawa went to Side Street Inn on Hopaka Street for more drinks before returning to Tropic's, "where he had one more drink."

Arakawa was drinking beer and hard liquor, said Fried. "It was in the range of 10, possibly more," he added when asked how much liquor Arakawa consumed.

Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, representing Side Street Inn, reserved comment until he has a chance to review the complaint. Tropic's attorney, Sidney Ayabe, was unavailable for comment. The Ambrose family's public plea for witnesses has resulted in hundreds of calls to his office, Fried said.

A man and woman, who witnessed the collision, were among those who have contacted Fried and police.

According to their statement to Fried, the couple said they had gone to the market and were stopped at a red light going mauka on Pali Highway and School Street.

"The driver said he looked in his rear-view mirror and saw this car coming up fast behind him," Fried said. "He said the car went around him and through the red light." The witnesses also saw Dana Ambrose's car proceeding into the intersection before being broadsided by Arakawa's vehicle.

"After checking the cars, our reconstruction person estimates (Arakawa) was going well in excess of 60 miles per hour in a 25-mile-an-hour zone," Fried said.