A video showing a police officer beating a homeless man who was seen harassing a Hawaiian monk seal is under review as the Honolulu prosecutor's office considers whether to present the case to a grand jury.
The prosecutor's office initially declined to pursue charges against Officer Ming Wang, a 10-year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department, who was videotaped using his baton to beat Jamie Kalani Rice, 41.
Wang apparently approached Rice after he was spotted harassing an endangered monk seal on a beach in Oahu in September 2014.
In the video, Rice is seen throwing sand at the monk seal on the beach and making lots of erratic movements before Wang approaches. After Rice walks away from Wang, the officer can be seen using pepper spray on his face and hitting him multiples times with a baton before Rice collapses to the ground.
Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro recently ordered the case be reexamined because he did not fully agree with he findings of the deputy who initially declined the case, Dave Koga, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, told BuzzFeed News.
A different deputy has been assigned to the case for a second review "for possible presentation to a grand jury," Koga added.
The video footage was recorded by two volunteers with National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, who had put up warning signs to keep people six-feet away from the endangered marine mammal.
The Honolulu Police Department said it launched an investigation into Wang's procedure, which is standard with officer-involved incidents, and has passed along their findings to the prosecutor's office.
Police said Rice was ignoring the warning signs and harassing the seal. He was arrested for allegedly harassing a monk seal and resisting arrest, but police only charged Rice with harassing the seal, Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman Michelle Yu told BuzzFeed News.
While in police custody, Rice waived his rights to prosecute for his hand injuries that occurred during the arrest. He was later treated at a hospital for broken bones in his right hand, the Star Advertiser reported.
A grand jury indicted Rice on the charge of harassing the seal, a Class C felony, which could carry as much as five years in jail. In October, he accepted a lesser charge in a plea deal a judge sentenced him to five days, ruling he had already served his time and could be released from jail.
Rice told the judge he believed the seal was sick and he never meant to harm it. He added that he rubbed sand on himself and tossed the sand into the air in order to heal the seal.
Rice also said he was taking medication to treat his mental health issues.
Watch the 10-minute video of the incident here:
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at email@example.com.
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