New fire chief responds to fatal police shooting on his street

  • TODD

Hawaii Fire Department Emergency Medical Services personnel responded to two fatal police-involved shootings in Hilo within a week — one June 13 in Wainaku and the second Friday at a vacant Kilauea Avenue home on Hilo’s southern outskirts.

In the Sunday night shooting of 34-year-old man whom police say shot at officers who responded to a report of a domestic violence incident, the first firefighter/medic on scene was the recently appointed fire chief, Kazuo Todd, whose home is on Mokuhonua Lane, the same street the shooting occurred.

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The shooter, Ryan Santos, was killed by a single gunshot to the shoulder area, police said, while Santos’ 91-year-old grandfather, Ichiro “Bobby” Nakamura, died of a heart attack suffered during the incident.

Officers found four firearms at the scene, an AR-15 “ghost gun” without a serial number and a bolt action rifle, plus two long guns, at least one of them a shotgun, inside the residence.

Police Chief Paul Ferreira said none of the firearms were registered within the state of Hawaii, but added the caveat that long guns bought before registration was required are exempted.

That said, Santos, who had convictions for misdemeanor assault and domestic abuse — as well as an open domestic abuse court case — wasn’t legally allowed to possess firearms.

Todd spoke to the Tribune-Herald about the Sunday incident on Friday morning prior to the second shooting, in which police killed a man who allegedly had two knives and cut an officer’s arm with one of them.

“I was coming out of the shower and heard the gunshots going off — and realized that was not the normal illegal fireworks being shot off, considering the pattern,” Todd said about the Sunday incident. “I had my wife and daughter hide in the closet and put on my uniform, grabbed my medical stuff, turned on my radio, and got in touch with my dispatch to let them know. … They can shoot a message to the police to let them know, let their personnel know there was a medic (nearby).”

Todd said rain was falling as officers evacuated his wife and daughter to behind a rock wall.

“Once the police secured the scene, I went with them to assist on medical,” Todd said. “The police were doing an amazing job. When I walked in, we had the assailant down as well as our elderly patient. And they were doing CPR, swapping off between two police officers on each person. And on the assailant, there was a third person holding down the pressure to stop the bleeding.”

Todd said he didn’t have to wait long for EMS personnel to arrive.

“They’d actually staged a couple of roads down behind the police blockade,” Todd said. “So once the scene was secured, and they weren’t worried about weapons or other things going on, within a minute, minute-and-a-half of me walking in and starting CPR, they were on the scene and pulling in the gurneys and the (electrocardiograms) and other things like that.”

Todd said that in such situations, police and fire/medical personnel work in concert. He added he was “super impressed” with their response and sent a note about it to Ferreira.

“Our medics have had some joint training with them,” Todd said. “We’ve worked on some active shooter stuff. I think there’s some room for growth in that realm because it’s becoming more prevalent, I feel, in the United States in a whole. And even in Hawaii, we’ve had more gun incidents between police officers and others than I can remember happening in the beginning of my career.

“And while we’ve done some training in the past with some of our personnel and the police, I definitely think there’s a need in the future to continue on and get more in-depth training on active shooter events.

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“A year or two ago at the fire chiefs’ conference in Honolulu, they brought in the (Las Vegas) fire chief to talk about the active shooter event they had (which killed 59 people and injured more than 500 in 2017), and some of the insights on that will blow your mind. Nobody expects this kind of stuff on a random Sunday night in their neighborhood. But when it happens, we’ve got to be prepared.”

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