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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke August 22, 2023

It’s not a cover-up: Maui arrests made after people allegedly trespassed in disaster area

If Your Time is short

  • Maui, Hawaii, police have arrested people who trespassed in a disaster area that has been restricted because of recent wildfires. Claims officers are arresting witnesses in some sort of cover-up are unfounded.

"That’s why we can’t have you walking down there," Maui, Hawaii, Police Chief John Pelletier says in a video recently shared on TikTok. "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." 

A narrator then cuts in and says, "All right, breaking news: The police chief in the region affected by these fires has started arresting witnesses, and he tells the press to dox the witnesses that he arrested. So very concerning, the Maui police are now arresting witnesses. They’re telling people to stay away, and that they’ll arrest them if they show up. Are they trying to cover up key evidence?" (Doxxing is publicly identifying or publishing private information about people, especially to exact punishment or revenge.)

The Maui Police Department told Politifact the post’s claim is "100% false."

Josepha Toakala was arrested Aug. 18 in connection with rules and orders outlined in the Maui County mayor’s emergency proclamation related to the fires, the department said. Toakala had been warned Aug. 14 to avoid the wildfire disaster area in Lahaina and was taken into custody after being found there again, the department added. 

"We would also like to take this opportunity to remind the public about the importance of adhering to the rules and orders designed to maintain the safety and order of our community as we continue our search and recovery efforts within the area," the statement said. 

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On Aug. 13, another person was arrested and charged with criminal trespass after he was discovered exiting the restricted area, news outlet Maui Now reported

The mayor’s emergency proclamation, which limits movement within the wildfire disaster area, was signed Aug. 11 and cited "continuing catastrophic conditions that affect the health and safety of a large number of people."

Claims these people were arrested as part of a cover-up are unfounded. 

We rate them False.


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It’s not a cover-up: Maui arrests made after people allegedly trespassed in disaster area

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