Scouts sued over boy’s death

Gun Rights

The family of an 11-year-old Boy Scout who was killed in August when an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle was accidentally discharged is suing the Boy Scouts of America and the Boy Scouts of America, Aloha Council.

The wrongful death civil suit was filed Tuesday in Hilo Circuit Court by attorney Kris LaGuire on behalf of David G. Carvalho Sr. and Michele Ann Carvalho — the parents of the victim, Manuel “Manny” Carvalho — plus the boy’s four adult siblings and an older sister who’s still a minor.

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Manny Carvalho, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Waiakea Intermediate School and member of Hilo Boy Scout Troop 19, was killed Aug. 28 during what was described in the complaint as a “Troop Shoot” and “Family Fun Day” at the Boy Scouts’ Camp Honokaia near Honokaa.

Neither the Boy Scouts of America or the Aloha Council have “taken any responsibility for what happened to Manny,” according to the lawsuit.

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“Since Manny was killed, the Carvalhos have been devastated,” the document states. “The loss of their youngest child and his caring and loving outlook on life has left a gaping hole in the family unit. The family members have been to counseling. The family members have suffered ongoing grief and have had to endure cruel and untrue comments by ill-informed individuals.”

The suit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages plus attorney fees and court costs, comes about two months after Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto ordered the Hawaii Police Department to turn over records of its investigation into the boy’s fatal shooting to LaGuire.

Nakamoto had issued a subpoena on Oct. 7 directing then-Acting Police Chief Kenneth Bugado Jr. and the department’s records division to produce unredacted records about the case to the boy’s family.

The department objected through the county’s Corporation Counsel, citing its ongoing investigation into the boy’s death and privacy laws regarding three as of yet uncharged potential criminal defendants. The three face 23 possible misdemeanor charges, including criminally negligent storage of a firearm.

In a court hearing on Oct. 19, Nakamoto ordered the department to produce the records, with some redactions.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the Boy Scouts and its Aloha Council of gross negligence, including nonadherence to Boy Scouts of America safety standards plus the shooting of firearms other than the types allowed by the BSA rules governing its shooting ranges.

According to the lawsuit, the Boy Scouts Shooting Sports Manual limits the types of rifles allowed on camp ranges to only “.22 caliber breech-loading, single-shot or a repeater type bolt-action rifles with a box-style magazine.” The manual also disapproves of the use of “human form and zombie silhouette targets,” both of which allegedly were present at the Camp Honokaia range.

The Boy Scouts Guide to Safe Scouting, the lawsuit states, specifies that “firearms shall not be brought on camping, hiking, backpacking or other Scouting activities except those specifically planned for target shooting under the supervision of a currently certified BSA national shooting sports director or National Rifle Association firearms instructor.”

A message to Troop 19 family members included in the filing invited them to bring their own guns including “rifles, shotguns or handguns” with ammunition — the only caveat being “no illegal guns.”

Police on Sept. 20 said 18 firearms and ammunition for various guns were recovered as evidence at Camp Honokaia. The firearms are all registered to the three individuals police said are potential criminal defendants.

Police said they concluded their investigation and forwarded it to county Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen for possible charges. Waltjen recused himself and deferred prosecution to the state attorney general, telling the Tribune-Herald in October several of his staff members were present at the camp “and are potential witnesses.”

The lawsuit identifies one of the firearms owners as Elson Wong, father of a troop member and the alleged owner of the AK-47 that killed Carvalho. Wong is alleged to have brought numerous weapons, including an AR-15, M4 carbine, four shotguns and four Glock pistols. It also identifies Scoutmaster Conrad Dakujaku as another registered owner of firearms brought to the range, including an “AR-15 type rifle.”

The suit states those present were briefed about firearms safety by Guy Saruwatari, identified as “an investigator for the Hawaii County prosecutor’s office and a cousin of Scoutmaster Dakujaku.”

According to the complaint, supposedly emptied weapons “were placed on a series of tables set up at the back of the range, behind the firing line and behind the spectator area.” It also alleges that emptied weapons were pointed toward the firing line and the spectator area, and no designated official was overseeing the range, firing line or tables.

Youngsters were milling around the tables, the suit states, and 10-year-old boy picked up the AK-47, which didn’t have the magazine inserted, and “set it back into or onto the case.” A round allegedly had been left in the chamber, and the rifle discharged when the boy set it down, hitting Carvalho — who reportedly was seated in the spectator area — in the back of the head, killing him.

“There was no planning done, and no indication that Guy Saruwatari was qualified to provide a shooting safety briefing or that he gave a proper and compliant briefing,” the lawsuit alleges.

The document also states that two days after the shooting, JoAnne Dakujaku, the scoutmaster’s wife and the troop’s charter organization representative, sent an email to all the participants except the Carvalhos saying the Aloha Council wanted to know who at the event had NRA or other firearm certifications.

LaGuire declined to comment about the lawsuit. The Tribune-Herald also reached out Tuesday to both the Boy Scouts of America and the Aloha Council, but received no reply in time for this story.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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