SOUTH POINT — A days-long, islandwide manhunt culminated Friday at South Point when the Hawaii Police Department’s Special Response Team engaged in a shootout with Justin Waiki, the man wanted in the shooting death of Puna patrol Officer Bronson Kaliloa earlier this week.
According to Police Department officials, the shootout ended with Waiki dead, a woman injured and a sergeant with the Special Response Team medevaced to Hilo Medical Center with gunshot wounds. As of Friday evening, the sergeant was reported to be in stable condition and going into surgery.
Three people were taken into custody at the scene on suspicion of hindering prosecution.
“I know that our island community and entire state has been following this event, and we at the Hawaii Police Department want to express our thanks for the thoughts and prayer,” said Police Chief Paul Ferreira during a press conference Friday night in Hilo, “along with your hopes. We have been able to bring this nightmare to an end.”
Police followed up on tips of Waiki’s whereabouts throughout the week. On Friday, they received information that the 33-year-old was in the South Point area. When SRT and a special task force arrived on scene, checks were conducted of the area and a checkpoint was established to search vehicles coming in and out of South Point Road.
At 2:45 p.m., checkpoint officers stopped a Toyota 4Runner being driven by 35-year-old Jorge Pagan-Torres. Also in the vehicle were Krystle Ferreira, 29, of Waimea; Malia Lajala, 30, of Hilo; and a third woman who has not yet been identified.
According to police, Waiki was hiding under a blanket in the very back of the vehicle. When the SRT sergeant, a 12-year police veteran, opened the back lift gate, the suspect “emerged from under the blanket and shot the officer.”
“He appeared to have been shot in the chest and arm,” police said Friday evening. “Angle of the shot allowed bullet to go past his bullet proof vest, striking his chest.”
At that point, other SRT members returned fire on Waiki, killing him. The woman, whom police have not yet identified, also suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound and was taken to Hilo Medical Center for treatment.
Pagan-Torres, Ferreira and Lajala were arrested on suspicion of first-degree hindering prosecution and transported to the Kealakehe police station.
“The men and women of the Hawaii Police Department rose to the occasion in keeping our community safe,” Ferreira said. “You can sleep well tonight knowing that the search is over for this individual that had taken the life of Officer Bronson Kaliloa just days ago.”
On Friday afternoon, police were diverting traffic on South Point Road onto Kamaoa Road. Some residents were gathered along the sides of the country road chatting. The scene of the incident was about 2 miles from where the roadblock was set up.
“Not safe anywhere, no matter where you live,” said John Jeffries, who lives about a mile from where the shooting occurred.
Despite that, everyone was glad the manhunt came to an end.
“I’m happy they got him,” said resident Thalia Naidu. “Everyone will sleep easier tonight.”
The manhunt for Waiki started at 9:47 p.m. Tuesday after police say he shot Kaliloa, 46, beside Highway 11 in Mountain View when the officer approached a vehicle during a traffic stop.
Waiki allegedly got out of the car and shot Kaliloa, a 10-year veteran of the department, in the neck and leg. An autopsy determined the cause of death to be a torn carotid artery caused by a gunshot wound and the manner of death homicide.
Waiki, whose last known address was in Las Vegas, was being sought at the time of the traffic stop on a no-bail warrant for revocation of his bail conditions.
The first chance to pursue Waiki since Tuesday’s fatal shooting happened Thursday evening when Police received reports of a sighting in Kailua-Kona. At 4:58 p.m., police responded to Ka Hale Kahaluu for reports of shots fired. Two individuals in a truck led police on a chase through South Kona ending at Middle Keei Road, where the suspects fled on foot.
After hours of combing the countryside, Harvey Damo Jr., 25, of Hilo and Shevylyn Klaus, also 25 and of Hilo, were taken into custody. Damo was treated for a non-life-threatening gunshot wound at Kona Community Hospital.
Damo and Klaus were arrested on suspicion of second-degree theft.
As of Friday night, police were still trying to determine if Damo and Klaus were known associates of Waiki and if the fugitive was involved somehow in Thursday’s pursuit.
“I’m glad they caught the alleged assailant,” Gov. David Ige said Friday evening. “Certainly, I do thank the Hawaii County Police Department for their quick action in apprehending the suspect, and our thoughts and prayers are with the officer who was injured.”
Officers who discharged their weapons in Friday’s shootout were placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of internal investigations.
Maj. Robert Wagner said Friday night that if any civil rights violations are suspected, they will be probed by federal officials.
“There is legislation that is in-the-making in the Legislature for an outside committee or outside group (to) review police shootings but (it’s) not in place yet,” he said.
Email Tiffany DeMasters at firstname.lastname@example.org.