Cook often took leaders of native groups hostage if any of his possessions were stolen. He would hold the chief hostage until the stolen goods were returned.
On the day the Hawaiians killed Captain Cook, he had taken one of their chiefs hostage and was about to row the chief back to the ship.
In this case a large row boat had been stolen. At first this chief agreed to go along, but an argument started. His wife and two other chiefs urged him not to go with Cook. He changed his mind, a struggle started and the British started shooting as they saw the Hawaiians approach in a threatening manner with stones and spears.
Once their muskets and pistols were fired, killing several Hawaiians, Cook and his party were overwhelmed and killed.2