Retired detective sentenced to probation

  • RODRIGUES

A retired Hawaii Police Department detective has been sentenced to four years of probation for his role in an armed confrontation in Hawaiian Paradise Park in 2017.

Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto sentenced 55-year-old John Rodrigues Jr. on Aug. 24 after he pleaded guilty to first-degree terroristic threatening and possession of a detachable magazine with a capacity in excess of 10 rounds of ammunition, both Class C felonies punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

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In exchange for Rodrigues’ plea, prosecutors dropped two charges of illegally carrying a firearm — both Class B felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

According to the indictment, on Jan. 26, 2017, Rodrigues threatened Nathan Figueroa with a firearm.

Police responded that morning to a report of “gunshots fired” in Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision.

Police made contact with a group near where the shots were reported and determined that although firearms were involved in a confrontation, no shots were fired.

Rodrigues was arrested at that time on suspicion of three counts of terroristic threatening and six firearms offenses, but was later released pending further investigation.

Rodrigues later sued the county and then-Capt. Samuel Jelsma, who is now an assistant chief, claiming Rodrigues’ civil rights were violated and he was defamed by the department, which issued a media release about the arrest even though charges weren’t filed at the time.

In Rodrigues’ suit, filed first in Hilo Circuit Court but later moved to U.S. District Court in Honolulu, he claims he was threatened by Wesley Kaimana “Mana” Brooks, whom Rodrigues said fired a shot at him with a 9 mm handgun.

Rodrigues alleges that when Jelsma arrived on scene, he directed officers, with Rodrigues’ permission, to search his truck for firearms.

Officers recovered a Remington shotgun and Smith & Wesson 9 mm handgun from the truck. Rodrigues claimed that, as a retired police officer in good standing, he was legally authorized to carry a concealed handgun under the 2004 federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, or LEOSA.

Rodrigues also alleged Brooks had stalked Rodrigues’ son, and his son had filed three police reports, including one alleging Brooks had made a death threat against Rodrigues’ son while brandishing an AK-47 and a 9 mm handgun, but police refused to investigate.

In addition, Rodrigues claimed he was improperly detained for four hours at the Pahoa police station before he was advised of his rights and arrested.

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Rodrigues’ lawsuit was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Alan Kay on Dec. 30, 2019. Rodrigues appealed, and on Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the suit’s dismissal.

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

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