Questions remain on fatal accident

LIHUE — Questions remain more than a week after a Hanapepe man was struck by two cars on Jan. 2.

The results of an autopsy to determine facts surrounding the death of 19-year-old Michael Kocher have yet to be released. What is known is that Kocher was struck by two vehicles, one a police car, about 9:30 p.m.

Kauai police are conducting two separate investigations. The first is a criminal investigation into the death of the pedestrian that is handled by Traffic Safety Section.

The second is the internal investigation conducted by KPD Internal Affairs to determine whether the officer violated departmental policies or procedures.

County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said his office does not participate in an internal police investigation. A prosecutor’s review would follow to determine whether criminal charges should be filed in the case.

“We are working with KPD’s traffic safety section on that,” Kollar said. “When that investigation is finished it will be submitted to us for review and, if appropriate, prosecution.”

The fact that a police officer is involved in the case does not automatically make it a conflict for the Kauai prosecutor’s office to handle any criminal case, he added. The prosecutor’s office has handled other cases involving police officers.

“If the case is submitted to us and we identify a conflict of interest, it would be up to us to refer the case to the Department of the Attorney General,” he said.

That determination is made on a case-by-case basis, he added.

A county press release says Kocher was walking on Kaumualii Highway, just east of the Kaumakani Post Office. He was struck by an eastbound Toyota Corolla, and then by a police vehicle responding to the accident from the West.

Why Kocher was walking along that rural section of highway that evening is unknown. Some reports say he was carrying fishing poles after frequenting a favorite spot for the day. Others say Kocher left a vehicle of friends.

Calls and emails to the state Department of Transportation regarding road conditions, lighting and other factors they would review were not returned.

A roadside memorial was set up by Kocher’s friends near a bridge underpass where the shoulder narrows west of the entrance to Gay & Robinson.

Visitation and funeral service arrangements for Kocher have not been announced.


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