Jamie Kalani Rice was struck with a baton and pepper sprayed by a police officer after he tried to heal a seal by chanting on a beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sept. 11, 2014 (video below).
Barbara and Robert Billand, who volunteer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, had placed warning signs on the beach to keep people away from the monk seal, noted the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in December 2015.
In the video, which was filmed by the Billands, Officer Ming Wang approaches Rice on the beach. When Rice gets up and walks away, Wang follows him, uses paper spray on Rice and then hits him several times with a baton until Rice is on the ground.
Wang originally wrote in his police report that Rice would not step away from the seal when told to, but when Rice did walk away, he refused to stop after Wang told him he was under arrest.
The Honolulu Police Department investigated the incident, but prosecutors decided not to charge Wang in June because the video did not include dialogue between Wang and Rice.
In a plea deal, Rice pleaded no contest to obstructing a government operation, which is a misdemeanor.
Rice told Circuit Judge Paul B.K. Wong that he thought the seal was sick and never meant to harm it.
Rice said he was trying to heal the seal by rubbing sand on himself and throwing the sand in the air, which was supposed to transfer his energy to the seal.
Wong sentenced Rice to five days in jail, but credited him with time already served.
Rice filed a federal complaint on Dec. 29, 2015 against Honolulu, and against Wang and Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, whom he says used excessive force and tried to cover up the incident, notes Courthouse News.
Rice's complaint states that "each of them, took steps to write reports that altered the events as they actually took place so as to justify Wang use force [sic] against the plaintiff to effectuate his arrest."
The court papers also say that Rice had broken bones in his right hand, and that the beating from Wang was unjustified because he "at no time posted a threat, resisted or struck Wang."
Rice is claiming negligence, civil rights violations, conspiracy, assault and battery, false imprisonment and emotional distress.
Chief prosecutor Keith Keneshiro has asked his staff to re-examine the incident regarding Wang's actions.