Puna fire rescue lands top award

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Protesters, supporters greet Trump in Hawaii

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Protesters, supporters greet Trump in Hawaii

HONOLULU — President Donald Trump arrived Friday afternoon in Hawaii, landing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam ahead of a nearly two-week trip to five Asian nations focusing on trade and security.

Trump, who is visiting the state for the first time since his inauguration, was greeted by Gov. David Ige before starting a one-night stay in Honolulu that included visits to military officials at Pacific Command, a tour of Pearl Harbor and a wreath ceremony at the Arizona memorial. First lady Melania Trump joined the president during his travels.

A small number of Trump supporters and many anti-Trump protesters demonstrated on the streets as the president made his way to sites around the city before sleeping at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in tourist-heavy Waikiki.

Hawaii picks top cop

HILO — Officer Conrad Bidal was named the Hawaii Police Department’s 2017 “Top Cop” by the Law Enforcement and Security Coalition of Hawaii.

Bidal, a 1-year veteran officer who is assigned as a patrol officer in the Puna district, was described in nomination papers by Capt. Samuel Jelsma as an officer who displays steadfast dedication to the job and a diligent work ethic, maintaining perfect work attendance from his date of hire.

Bidal was recognized for his decisive and heroic actions at the scene of a Jan. 16 structure fire of the Luquin’s Mexican restaurant building in Pahoa town, which undoubtedly prevented loss of life or serious bodily injury to the occupants. At the time he was just two weeks into his solo assignment.

Responding to the midnight structure fire and being one of the first to arrive he noted that interior lights were illuminated on the second floor of the building potentially indicating that tenants were within. Bidal immediately began looking for and located an open door on the back of the building, disregarding his safety he ran into the building solo and began a methodical search for anyone inside.

Upon his first search of the building, he located four people still within their upstairs apartments apparently unaware of the fire; he alerted and safely evacuated each of them. After clearing the burning building of occupants, he then conducted a secondary search to ensure it was empty and while doing so encountered previously evacuated residents who had re-entered the building in an attempt to gather personal belongings. Bidal was forced to re-evacuate the residents and as he completed this task the building became fully engulfed in flames. Bidal displayed extreme courage by facing increasing temperatures, smoke and flames during this second clearing of the building as the fire had spread to cover nearly half the building at that time.

The prestigious award was presented to Officer Conrad Bidal Oct. 26 at the Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki during the 33rd Annual Top Cop Law Enforcement and Security Awards Banquet.

Man charged with murder released

HONOLULU — An American charged with murder in Tonga for his wife’s death has been released from prison in Hawaii after the U.S. State Department refused to extradite him because of concerns he would not have received a fair trial.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exercised his discretion in denying the Kingdom of Tonga’s request to extradite Dean Jay Fletcher for trial in the South Pacific archipelago nation, according to a letter to U.S. prosecutors from the State Department.

A U.S. judge in Hawaii on Wednesday ordered Fletcher’s immediate release from the federal Honolulu Detention Center, where he had been held for nearly a year.

Fletcher was indicted on murder and other charges in Tonga in the July 2016 death of his Canadian wife, Patricia Linne Kearney.

Earlier this year, a U.S. judge in Honolulu ruled that Fletcher could be extradited.

But a letter Tuesday from the State Department expressed concern that Fletcher would have faced a death sentence or life in prison and that he would not have received a defense attorney for free.

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If he had been convicted and sentenced to death, Fletcher would have been hanged and would have been the first person executed in Tonga since 1981.

Fletcher’s lawyer, Melinda Yamaga, declined comment on where Fletcher went following his release and said he did want to speak with journalists about his case.