Police: Two officers fired weapons in busy supermarket parking lot

  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Police investigators unload equipment at the scene of a police-involved shooting near the Puainako Jack in the Box in Hilo. The yellow markers on the parking lot pavement indicate where bullet casings or fragments were found.

  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald The driver of this white Toyota sedan with the bottom side panel detached said his car was sideswiped by a truck fleeing from officers during a busy midday Wednesday in the parking lot of the KTA Super Stores Puainako store and the adjacent Jack in the Box parking lot.
  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Hawaii Police Department Acting Sgt. Erhard Autrata, left, points out a detail to Lt. Rio Amon-Wilkins at the scene of a police-involved shooting in the KTA Super Stores Puainako store parking lot Wednesday afternoon.
  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Officers investigating the scene of a police-involved shooting set up surveying equipment while the bottom of a stop sign sports a bullet hole in the KTA Super Stores Puainako Store parking lot near the Jack in the Box restaurant.
  • TEARON PACHECO-FERNANDEZ

Two on-duty officers discharged their weapons at a pickup truck shortly after noon Wednesday in the KTA Super Stores Puainako store parking lot in Hilo near the Jack in the Box restaurant.

According to police, they think the Toyota truck, the subject of an all-points bulletin, was driven by Tearon Pacheco-Fernandez, a 24-year-old woman wanted on two arrest warrants and for questioning in an Aug. 14 incident in which an unmarked police vehicle was rammed on Kaumana Drive in Hilo.

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Lt. Rio Amon-Wilkins of the Hilo Criminal Investigations Section said at the scene of the incident that patrol officers responded to an earlier call Wednesday reporting the truck was in Keaukaha but they didn’t find it there.

“An off-duty officer … came to this area and observed the truck and let the on-duty officers know,” Amon-Wilkins said. “They responded to this area (and) were able to identify the vehicle as the one that they were looking for previously.

“And then, that’s when things just started happening real quickly.”

According to a Hawaii Police Department statement, the truck’s operator drove toward an officer who discharged his service weapon. The truck drove past the officer, struck a parked vehicle and then skidded into the driveway of Jack in the Box, where the driver reversed and almost struck another officer, police said.

The second officer also responded by discharging his service weapon. However, the truck continued west toward the Kilauea Avenue exit and struck a passenger car stopped in traffic, police said. The truck was last seen headed in the Puna direction on Kilauea Avenue.

The driver of the small, white Toyota sedan sideswiped by the truck, a 71-year-old Hilo man, identified himself as “K.J.” He said he heard the gunfire and “panicked a little bit.” Police say he was uninjured.

“I was coming in the driveway to go to the Jack in the Box. I heard the shots. I stopped,” said K.J., who was in the Jack in the Box parking lot. “I heard two shots (and) went down a little bit. I see the truck with the load in the back, brownish, greenish, I’m not sure.”

K.J. added he saw one officer shooting at the truck while another stood by. He said the truck had only a small space between his car and a sign to squeeze through to make its escape from the authorities.

“I didn’t think he was gonna make it but he did. He hit my car and ran away, the cops still shooting at him,” he said.

K.J. said he didn’t get a look at the driver, saying the truck’s windows “had very dark tint.”

The parking lot of the supermarket complex was a hub of activity on the busy day before Thanksgiving and police temporarily closed the Kilauea Avenue entrance and exit, as well as the entrance to Jack in the Box from Kanoelehua Avenue. The only remaining entrance and exit to the complex, on Puainako Street, was backed up with people doing last-minute Thanksgiving grocery shopping and buying Christmas trees from a vendor in the parking lot.

Police say the patrol officer who discharged his weapon is a six-year veteran of the department, while the other officer is a plainclothes officer with 15 years in the department.

Neither was injured during the confrontation with the vehicle nor the weapons discharge, nor did it appear any civilians in the busy parking lot were injured.

Amon-Wilkins said he didn’t know if either the truck or the driver was hit by the gunfire, but a stop sign at the Jack in the Box end of the parking lot sported a bullet hole and there were numerous numbered yellow markers on the parking lot’s pavement where investigators found bullet casings or fragments.

Police are investigating the actions of the driver as a first-degree attempted murder and Hilo Criminal Investigations Section detectives are investigating.

Detectives from the Office of Professional Standards — the department’s Internal Affairs unit — also are conducting an independent administrative investigation as the result of the weapons discharge.

Police are seeking leads on Pacheco-Fernandez, whom they say frequents the Puna and Hilo areas. She’s described as a local female, about 4 feet, 9 inches tall, 110 pounds, with medium-length black hair and a tan complexion.

Police are warning the public against confronting Pacheco-Fernandez and asking anyone who knows her whereabouts or has other pertinent information to call the police nonemergency number at 935-3311 or Crime Stoppers at 961-8300.

Leads also are sought on the Toyota truck, a lifted Tacoma Extra Cab pickup, spray-painted gray with factory front rims and blacked-out rear rims, with the rear license plate ZCT 556 and front license plate HDZ 877. The truck was thought to have been stolen from a business on Makalika Street in Hilo in early November, police said.

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Anyone who might have seen the Tacoma leaving the area or has other information about this incident is asked to call Detective Wendall Carter at 961-2383 or email wendall.carter@hawaiicounty.gov.

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

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