The manhunt that started when Officer Bronson Kaliloa was fatally shot and culminated with officers shooting and killing the suspect, Justin Waiki, “took up a lot of resources,” said police Maj. Robert Wagner on Monday.
Wagner said he didn’t know how many officers were involved in the search for Waiki, which lasted about 60 hours and ended with seven officers on paid administrative leave for discharging their firearms and an eighth, Special Response Team Sgt. Bryan Tina, recovering from gunshot wounds to the arm and chest.
Tina was released Sunday from Hilo Medical Center, Wagner said.
The officers on leave include two Puna patrol officers who fired back after Waiki allegedly shot Kaliloa at about 9:47 p.m. July 17, two Kona patrol officers who discharged their weapons in a high-speed chase Thursday afternoon that started in Kailua-Kona and ended in a Honaunau coffee grove, and three SRT officers who shot Waiki to death after he reportedly shot and injured Tina with a stolen .38 revolver at about 2:45 p.m. Friday on South Point Road in Ka‘u.
While losing that many officers — including a fallen one — is tough, Wagner said there is mitigation.
“The SRT is made up of officers from all around the island. That means that different sections will be missing one or two officers; not everybody is from the same section,” he said.
A man and two women who were in the Toyota 4Runner with Waiki when it was stopped at a checkpoint, Jorge Pagan-Torres, 35, of Hilo; Malia Lajala, 30, of Hilo; and Krystle Ferreira, 29, of Waimea, face charges including accomplice to attempted first-degree murder and first-degree hindering prosecution charges. A third woman was hospitalized after suffering a gunshot wound to the leg and a broken femur.
The manhunt took a bizarre turn Thursday with the Kona chase, which began in the parking lot of the Kailua-Kona Walmart. Asked if Harvey Chevis Damo Jr., a 25-year-old Hilo man facing numerous charges after allegedly driving at officers in a stolen Toyota Tacoma pickup truck, is connected to Waiki, Wagner replied, “We’re still looking into it.”
“We had a report that he was in the car at Walmart with those parties, but we still haven’t confirmed that was what happened. And we didn’t have the information that particular vehicle was a stolen vehicle, so that added to the reason why Damo took off on us, as well.”
A woman with Damo, 25-year-old Shevylyn Klaus of Hilo, was arrested on suspicion of second-degree theft, but later was released from custody pending further investigation.
A number of police vehicles sped over the Saddle to Kona to join the Thursday pursuit in the belief that Waiki was involved.
By comparison, Wagner said an eight-day manhunt for Jarvis Higa and Ryan Jeffries-Hamar, who escaped from Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo on Dec. 5, 2012, “took up a lot of resources as well.” He added that last week’s manhunt, coupled with the overtime expense for the Puna lava response since May 3, “just blew our budget out of the water, as far as overtime is concerned.”
“The danger level of Waiki was significant, definitely higher than that of the two escapees,” Wagner said.
He compared the threat posed by Waiki to that of two wanted ex-cons, Ronald Barawis Jr. and Scottie Yanagawa, who were shot to death by officers within four days of each other on Feb. 5, 2016, and Feb. 9, 2016, respectively.
Barawis was shot in the drive-through at the Puainako McDonald’s in Hilo and Yanagawa in the parking lot of the Hilo Walmart.
Seven officers were put on paid administrative leave after firing their weapons in the two incidents — four for the shooting of Barawis and three in Yanagawa’s shooting.
“They didn’t want to be taken alive to go back to jail,” Wagner said. “The information we got on those two guys is they did not want to be taken alive. This was kind of similar with Waiki. It appears to be, anyway.”
According to Wagner, the tragic loss of an officer, the manhunt for the suspect and its violent ending have been an emotional roller coaster for officers and their loved ones.
“He shot one policeman and was capable of shooting another, which he did,” he said. “There was a legitimate concern, because people who act that way are a significant danger to society, as well. We had to find him and apprehend him. That was the utmost priority. There’s a sense of relief, but that doesn’t change the fact an officer was killed and doesn’t bring back Bronson Kaliloa.”
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.