“You just killed the pedestrian you were supposed to be helping!” This is what a Good Samaritan yelled to Kauai Police Officer Irvin Magayanes just seconds after Magayanes struck and killed 19-year old Michael Kocher, Jr.
On the evening of January 3, 2015, Michael was walking along Kaumualii Highway in west Kauai when he was hit from behind by a car. The impact broke his right leg. Officer Magayanes responded and, according to GPS data, he accelerated up to 109 mph. Magayanes “forgot” to turn on his high beams as he sped down the dark, rural highway.
A crowd of cars and people gathered at the accident scene. Officer Magayanes was confused about where the scene was – he wrongly assumed these parked cars with their headlights on had pulled over for him and thought that the accident was farther down the highway. Consequently, Officer Magayanes raced through the crowd at 75 mph and struck Michael’s head with the bumper of the patrol car, causing massive and fatal brain trauma. Officer Magayanes then lost control of his patrol car, sideswiped a Good Samaritan’s vehicle, and slammed into a guardrail before spinning out and coming to rest. It is truly amazing no one else died that night.
Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner sued the Kauai Police Department and Officer Magayanes to enforce the traffic laws and safety rules that apply to police officers. The Department recently agreed to pay $1,000,000 to the Kocher family to settle their wrongful death claims. Although Michael’s life was priceless, and no amount of money was ever going to bring him back, the payment of a million dollars symbolizes that no one is above the law. The police will be held accountable for abuses of police power which endanger the public. But perhaps more important than the money, the Department agreed to teach all new recruits about the lessons of January 3, so that Michael’s death was not in vain and can be used to make the streets of Kauai safer. The Department will also be erecting a plaque in Michael’s memory at his favorite neighborhood park.
Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner is proud to have fought for Michael and helped the Kocher family obtain justice.