Father questions system after son’s death in prison

Darius Puni-Mau and Kalani Mau

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Darius Puni-Mau grabbed headlines last October after escaping from state custody at Circuit Court. His family is now mourning his death, which is under investigation.

Kalani Mau knows his 22-year-old son made mistakes in his young life, but questions if the state did all it could to prevent his death.

Kalani is overwhelmed with emotion when he thinks about his Sunday visit at Halawa Correctional Facility.

“Ended with the visit with a hug that was so meaningful. He put his head on me and I held him and I didn’t realize that was going to be the last time I seen my son,” Kalani said.

The following night Darius committed suicide in his cell.

“He was hurting so much. I seen that in him — the depressions and the hurtness in him and he needed help, he needed help,” Kalani said. “Why wasn’t he under suicide watch?”

The Department of Public Safety confirms Darius was not under suicide watch.

“We take all allegations and incidents seriously. The situation involving Darius Puni-Mau is under investigation by our Internal Affairs Office.”

Darius grabbed headlines last October after a brazen escape at Circuit Court.

“He was in an intake room and he was at the last room at the intake and he used his slipper, pushed, the board went up and he went, he went,” Kalani said. “‘Til today I told him, ‘Ikaika, why did you do that, Why?’ Then he said, ‘Dad I don’t know, I don’t know.’ He was not well he was not well already.”

“If there were red flags that the department missed then we have to look into that and see why they missed them. But anytime someone is depressed or has some mental health issues, for example, that is certainly a situation that needs to be watched very closely,” Sen. Will Espero said.

Sen. Espero is the Senate’s Public Safety Committee Chair.

“There have been some very high-profile incidents and events within our prisons and jails, from the escapes to the murder to even a recent suicide, so when you tell me about this suicide it’s very troubling to hear from this information,” Sen. Espero said.

“A lot of questions I have… why, why why?,” Kalani said.

Kalani says his son was severely beaten in his cell several weeks ago and never fully recovered physically or emotionally.

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