FACT CHECK: Is The Maui Police Chief Arresting Witnesses To The Recent Wildfires As Part Of A Cover Up?
A video shared on TikTok claims Maui Police Department Chief John Pelletier is allegedly arresting witnesses to the island’s recent wildfires as part of a purported cover-up.
The video misconstrues comments Pelletier made during an Aug. 14 press conference in which he revealed the Maui Police Department arrested an individual for trespassing inside the disaster zone.
Hawaii authorities are encouraging residents to provide DNA samples to aid in identifying the remains of those who perished in the recent wildfires, according to The Associated Press. Between 1,000 to 1,100 names remain on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ‘s unconfirmed list of people who are unaccounted for following the natural disaster, the outlet reported.
The TikTok video, liked over 4,000 times, purports Pelletier is allegedly arresting witnesses to the recent Maui wildfires as part of a purported cover-up. The video further claims Pelletier allegedly told members of the press to dox the witnesses.
The claim is false, however. The TikTok video misconstrues comments Pelletier made during an Aug. 14 press conference following the devastating wildfires. During the same press conference, Pelletier revealed the Maui Police Department had arrested an individual for trespassing inside the disaster zone.
Pelletier’s comments begin shortly after the press conference’s 23:37-minute mark in which he discusses the search and rescue efforts taking place in Maui. Pelletier indicated the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was part of the search and rescue efforts and reminded the press of the “reverence” behind the process of locating Maui residents’ loved ones.
“That’s why we can’t have you walking down there,” Pelletier said. “We had to arrest somebody for trespassing. And so, if we want to keep doing this and slowing it down, keep doing that. Do a Freedom of Information Act and figure out who that person is and tell that story. Knock it off. We’re going to do this right,” he added.
A keyword search reveals the Maui Police Department arrested Josepha Toakala for trespassing inside the restricted burn zone of Lahaina, according to Hawaii News Now. Toakala had received prior warning and was escorted out of the disaster area four days before his arrest, the outlet reported.
In addition, Henore Letourneau was also arrested for exiting the island’s restricted area, Maui Now indicated. (RELATED: Video Showing Sidewalk Of Fire Is Not From Maui)
Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen issued an emergency proclamation related to the wildfires, which instructed residents to avoid the disaster zone.
Likewise, Check Your Fact found no credible news reports suggesting Pelletier allegedly arrested witnesses to the wildfires, encouraged the press to dox the witnesses, or was trying to cover up any information about the natural disaster.
Check Your Fact has contacted the Maui Police Department for comment and will update this piece accordingly if one is received.