Having spent 50 years in Hawaii, I can honestly say that I have had only remarkably fine experiences with police officers on this island. I have even written letters of praise to the commanding officer of Kona about stellar behavior of particular officers carefully diffusing hot situations.
While most of these officers are gentle and wise souls here to protect us, now I am wondering if our Hawaii police force needs vetting as well as help training officers to do the job they are sworn to do: to “serve and protect.”
Police officers shot two men to death in Hilo in June.
On June 14, a man named Santos shot 30 bullets at officers who were called regarding domestic violence. Using five shots, a police officer killed Santos. The situation with Santos is obviously a case of our officers protecting themselves and others from being killed by a violent, armed criminal shooting two semi-automatic guns at them and at nearby homes. The officer who shot and killed this out-of-control shooter can be thanked for doing his job: saving lives.
On June 18, a 31-year-old named Daniel Buckingham was killed with 13 bullets. After he was frightened by the door being pushed in, Daniel made the serious mistake of cutting the forearm of an officer with a kitchen knife.
Before this incident, this lost soul called “Danny” was caught stealing shoes and food. I am told by people who knew him that Danny was a gentle, loving being. He was unable to find the right home to share and did not “fit” anywhere. I am also told that his mother, a psychiatrist from Michigan, was in the air flying to Hawaii to reunite with her son because she knew that he was in need. Upon landing, she learned that her son had been killed.
I talked to an assistant to the chief of police in Hilo. I asked if the officers could have used their tasers, or before bursting into the room, they could have asked if anyone was inside the room. “Police. Please surrender yourself.” They could have avoided shooting him 13 times at point blank.
The assistant told me that the wounded officer “reacted.” I said, “Don’t you mean, he overreacted? If a gun needed to be used, could just one shot to the arm holding the knife not have stopped him?”
Danny “overreacted” to the forceful entry with the force of his kitchen knife. But 13 bullets? Really?
Might we need to carefully screen police officers who feel justified unloading that number of bullets into an emotionally unstable young man who had no gun? Might we refuse to condone this kind of uncontrollable, over-the-top “reaction”?
I pray for healing of the officer who was injured by Danny’s knife. I feel sad for how he and his fellow officer must feel about the uncalled-for killing of a frightened young man who wrongfully created that forearm wound.
In my book, shooting 13 bullets to kill someone is not a justified self-defense for a knife wound to the forearm. There is something fundamentally wrong with this egregious excessive use of force, firing two gun loads of ammunition meant to kill — not just to wound.
My heart goes out to Mary and Marty Buckingham, who lost their son so violently and unnecessarily. Nothing can be done to undo their loss, but something must be done to prevent a such senseless, reactive killing from ever happening again.
The “shoot-to-kill” police mentality that has been exposed in our country during this last year (especially since George Floyd) must stop — replaced with effective ways of avoiding murderous acts toward and by the police.
I never thought I would be considering it necessary to request training for our Hawaii police officers to always announce who they are and only shoot to wound unless someone’s life is being threatened.” In fact, all police officers in our country need this very basic training.
I have contacted the Buckinghams, who are presently in their grieving process. Later, they intend to contemplate what action to advocate in order to reverse this tragedy. They may want to help with the creation of something that will save lives from inappropriate use of firearms. Hopefully, with police cooperation in this endeavor, this method of direct feedback with solutions will also prevent lifetimes of guilt for officers who have overused their firearms — having not yet been adequately trained to be respectful, and thus be respected.