The death of KwaZulu-Natal born rugby player, Lindani Myeni in Honolulu, Hawaii has left many South Africans in shock and disbelief, with some describing him as “focused”, “a good man” and “a gentle giant”.
Myeni, 29, was shot dead by police in Hawaii on Wednesday last week after they responded to an alleged “burglar in progress” at a home in Nuuana.
Police alleged that Myeni assaulted three officers, after which he was shot and killed.
Myeni was believed to have been unarmed.
Local media reported that Hawaii authorities had tried non-lethal force first before using live ammunition because the “suspect… was repeatedly punching” police officers.
But, according to Daily Maverick, those who knew Myeni said he was neither a burglar nor a thief.
“When I saw the news I said, this is not the Lindani I know. He has never been like that,” the report quoted Siyabonga Dlamini, who grew up a few streets away from Myeni in eSikhaleni, as saying.
Meanwhile, the United States embassy in Pretoria said this week that they were monitoring the investigation surrounding the shooting.
“This is a tragic incident, and we are carefully following the investigation by local Hawaiian authorities into the details of Mr Myeni’s tragic death,” News24 quoted the embassy spokesperson Robert Mearkle as saying.
The Myeni family lawyer, Luke Korkowski said earlier this week that the video released by authorities showed no evidence to justify fatal shooting.
He said the former rugby player’s death was “the result of poorly trained or aggressive police officers escalating a situation needlessly”.
He said, according to News24, Myeni had no way of knowing the men approaching him were police officers.
Police said that Myeni, who lived nearby, allegedly followed a woman to her home and exhibited strange behaviour. They also said when they arrived at the home, he charged the officers, SABC reported.
However, in a Facebook post, his widow Lindsay Myeni said her husband had gone out for a drive after a fun family day. She said he was only gone for 18 minutes when she received the news that her husband had been shot four times.
In the bodycam footage released by the Honolulu Police Department, the first officer on the scene saw a woman crying hysterically and pointing at someone. She told the officers the man was stealing a car.
— Tom George (@TheTomGeorge) April 17, 2021
The officers did not identify themselves when they approached Myeni. They pointed a gun at him and ordered him to get to the ground. A fight ensued, and Myeni tasered several times before he was shot.
He leaves behind his wife, who is a US citizen, and their two sons.
Honolulu police defended their actions, saying the officers were defending themselves against a violent suspect.
SABC quoted South Africa’s Ambassador to the USA, Nomaindia Mfeketho as saying it was time that dialogue began about the issue of race relations and police brutality in America.
Mfeketho said although as embassies they could not intervene, countries needed to discuss issues around police brutality.
“I think country to country, we are supposed to be discussing these issues. The United Nations also has some constraints and definitely, we also have some constraints, but we sit here, we see the new administration, in particular, trying to deal with guns.
“We see the people of America beginning to be very strong and vocal about what is happening. These are some of the things that we cannot interfere in, in person but the platform that we are in can talk about some of what they are dealing with already,” Mfeketho said.