Lawsuit filed in fatal police shooting in Hilo

  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald file photo Police process evidence at the scene of a police-involved shooting Feb. 5, 2016, behind McDonald’s restaurant in the Puainako Town Center.

A woman shot by police in Hilo almost two years ago is suing the county, alleging the officers who shot and killed her husband and injured her used excessive force.

The civil suit, filed Jan. 12 in Hilo Circuit Court by Nikita Nakamoto, seeks unspecified damages for herself and her two minor children, one of whom is the natural child of her late husband, Ronald Barawis Jr.


Named as defendants are the county and John Does 1-20. The Police Department is not named, although the suit claims the department was negligent in its training and supervision of the officers who shot Barawis and Nakamoto.

The shooting occurred shortly after midnight on Feb. 5, 2016, behind the McDonald’s restaurant in the Puainako Town Center.

The suit alleges that the car driven by Barawis “was suddenly surrounded by numerous police officers, armed with assault-type rifles” while in the drive-through lane of the fast food outlet. It claims that an officer “suddenly and without any warning, cause or provocation by plaintiff or her husband, and without any justification, opened fire on plaintiff and her husband.”

According to the complaint, Nakamoto was not wanted by police and had her hands up as instructed by officers when the shooting occurred.

Nakamoto, who was 28 and living in Mountain View at the time of the shooting, was taken in critical but stable condition to The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu with multiple gunshot wounds. The suit claims she lost her left eye as a result of a gunshot and was hit twice in the chest, where bullet fragments remain.

According to the complaint, Nakamoto also suffered “severe and permanent injuries to her intestines and stomach, significant and permanent scarring, and other injuries.” The suit said Nakamoto also has “has incurred and will continue to incur medical, hospital, rehabilitative, has lost wages and has been otherwise damaged.”

Barawis died at the scene.

The suit claims the children have mental and emotional distress over their mother’s injuries and Barawis’ death.

Police say when Barawis was commanded to get out of the 1991 Honda sedan he was driving, he instead drove over the drive-through’s barrier curb, accelerated, drove directly at an officer, and then rammed into two police vehicles.

Four officers were at the scene and three shot at the car, police said. According to police, no bystanders were injured.

Assistant Police Chief Henry Tavares, since retired, said at the time Barawis had a shotgun, an assault rifle and two semi-automatic handguns “within Barawis’ reach in the vehicle he was operating.”

Barawis, a 38-year-old ex-con, was wanted by police at the time of the shooting for resisting an order to stop a motor vehicle, reckless driving and reckless endangering. The charges stemmed from a Jan. 20, 2016, incident in Kailua-Kona in which Barawis allegedly drove at and almost struck a police officer.

Police issued a public wanted bulletin on Barawis the same day, and he was featured on the cable public access TV program “Hawaii Island’s Most Wanted.”

Police also wanted to question Barawis about an incident on Jan. 29, 2016, in upper Kaumana in which three men in a black Toyota Tacoma pickup truck reported being shot at by occupants of a late-model white 4-door sedan as they were driving east on Kaumana Drive. The men were uninjured but were forced to abandon the disabled truck on Wilder Road.

In addition, Barawis and Scottie Yanagawa, a 29-year-old prison furlough violator shot to death by police four days later in the Hilo Walmart parking lot, were reportedly wanted by police for a Jan. 31 shooting at Honolii Lookout in Hilo that critically injured a Kona man, William Holbron-Kealoha.

A paroled murderer and reputed gang leader, John Perez III, was charged with attempted murder and numerous other charges in that case. Prosecutors dismissed those charges on Dec. 12, 2016, without prejudice, meaning they are free to refile. Perez, who in 1995 was sentenced to life in prison for the 1991 beating and strangulation death of Juliana “Trish” Laysa, remains in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center on a parole issue, prosecutors said.

Nakamoto’s attorney, Jerel Fonseca, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment by press time Wednesday.


Deputy Corporation Counsel Laureen Martin said the county hadn’t been served with the lawsuit and declined further comment.

Email John Burnett at

  1. MDK 88 January 18, 2018 3:33 am

    So, she was forced into a relationship as well as forced to have a child with this perp. Doubt it. She knowingly endangered herself as well as her child by choosing to remain in a relationship with a convicted and career criminal. So now the taxpayers may have to foot the bill for her pain and suffering for a poor choice on her behalf? What a load..
    Maybe she had her hands up, but her “husband “ chose to hit the accelerator which was ultimately a death sentence for those in the car. Wow. Now that’s love.

  2. Steve Dearing January 18, 2018 7:32 am

    And the courts release these criminals to continue their killing spree. Please note both the criminals and the courts are products of the demo rats.

  3. Realitystrikes96778 January 18, 2018 8:00 am

    The shooting was justified. She needs to live with the consequences of her own bad decisions and associations. She should be suing the estate of Barawis for his actions that made the shooting reasonable under the circumstances.

  4. Poi January 18, 2018 4:46 pm

    You meet the nicest people with full face tattoos. [shudder]

  5. Rohan Arden January 20, 2018 8:25 pm

    Bless you Niki, I miss your family. Sunni

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