Police investigate possible road-rage gunfire

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A pickup truck was riddled with bullet holes and an errant bullet hit a home, but no one was injured in an early Tuesday morning shooting in the upper Kaumana area of Hilo.

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A pickup truck was riddled with bullet holes and an errant bullet hit a home, but no one was injured in an early Tuesday morning shooting in the upper Kaumana area of Hilo.

According to police, a 23-year-old Keaau man who was a passenger in the 2015 black Toyota Tacoma truck called 911 shortly after midnight and reported the vehicle was being shot at by occupants of a late-model white four-door sedan that was following the truck as it headed makai on Kaumana Drive.

In addition to the caller, there were two other people in the truck: the driver, a 38-year-old Keaau man, and another passenger, a 59-year-old Keaau man.

The disabled truck — its back windshield shattered, the tailgate sporting bullet-hole patterns that appeared to be made by a shotgun, and both front tires flattened — pulled off Kaumana Drive onto Wilder Road where it remained until police arrived. The truck eventually was towed from the scene late Tuesday morning.

The sedan sped away on the Puainako Avenue extension. Officers responding to the gunfire reports saw it and pursued the sedan, which was last seen heading toward Puna at a high rate of speed on Volcano Highway (Highway 11). Officers curtailed the chase because of dangerous conditions, police said.

An all-points bulletin was issued for a white 1995 Toyota Avalon sedan with license plate HWM 818. As of press time, the car and its occupants were being sought for questioning in connection with this series of investigations.

Police caution the public not to approach the vehicle but, instead, to call police to report its location.

Asked if the shooting appeared to be a case of road rage, police Lt. Greg Esteban of Hilo Criminal Investigations Section replied, “That hasn’t been excluded.”

“We’re still trying to verify if there’s anything that preceded this event, and we’re also trying to validate that there’s no association between the victims and the suspect,” he added.

Police say a number of calls were received reporting gunfire or what might have been thought to be fireworks in the upper Kaumana Drive area and are seeking any witnesses to these events.

Two individuals who live near the corner of Pulima Drive and Waenakonu Street, neither of whom gave their names, told the Tribune-Herald they heard gunfire at about midnight.

“I didn’t see anything, but I heard the gunshots … a lot of them,” a woman said. “I thought it was firecrackers.”

A neighbor said he was in his house when he heard the shots.

“I could hear the pop, pop, pop, pop, but I couldn’t make out what direction it was coming from,” he said.

The man said he didn’t see either the truck or the sedan but “saw a whole bunch of cops here on the street at about 3 in the morning.”

Police conducted neighborhood checks at the homes along upper Kaumana Drive and discovered that a house in the Gentry Homes subdivision was struck by what police think was an errant bullet. Although several people were inside, no one was injured. Detectives and evidence specialists recovered a bullet from the home.

“There’s a number of homes there, and we’re even venturing as far up as Kaumana City (in the investigation). As we’re developing more information, (the incident) may have started that far up on Kaumana Drive,” Esteban said.

Police opened investigations into possible charges of attempted murder, reckless endangering and resisting an order to stop.

Anyone with information is asked to contact either Detective Dean Uyetake at 961-2379 or dean.uyetake@hawaiicounty.gov or Detective Sandor Finkey at 961-2384 or sandor.finkey@hawaiicounty.gov.

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Those who prefer anonymity can call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 and might be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

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