Off-duty officer puts dinner plans on hold, arrests suspect without equipment or immediate backup

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WAIMEA — Police officer Severo Ines, Jr., insists he didn’t do anything special.

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WAIMEA — Police officer Severo Ines, Jr., insists he didn’t do anything special.

His superior officers, however, disagree.

So impressed by Ines’ actions was the top brass, they awarded him with Kohala Officer of the Quarter. Still, the soft-spoken Ines, better known as Junior around the office, took a humble approach when accepting the accolades.

“I’m sure of any other off-duty officer who saw what I saw would have reacted the same,” he said.

It began on May 24, when Ines and his wife were headed to dinner in Hamakua.

A car sped by them, which the 13-year police veteran estimated was going about 100 mph.

The driver passed five vehicles on the wrong side of a double line and swerved out of the way of a logging truck with less than a car length to spare, Ines recalled.

Seeing the public safety risk, Ines said he went into “cop mode” and began pursuit.

Normally his vehicle would have lights and sirens and he would have his handcuffs, Taser, night stick and other tools. But he was in his wife’s car, on the way to a nice, simple Tuesday dinner. Neither could even call for other officers, as they’d left their cellphones at home. So the only way to assist was to keep behind the reckless driver.

That takes skill by itself. Ines tried to keep close without increasing the danger. The car turned off toward Hamakua, then vanished before Ines caught up to him. Ines looked around, smelling burnt rubber but unsure of which way to go. Then he realized that everyone was outside, looking one way.

“There were more people on the street than a Honokaa parade,” said the Honokaa native.

Making the connection, he continued in the direction of the way people were looking and heard a screeching stop. Another driver had turned his van to force the suspect to a stop. The suspect did, halting in the parking lot of the gas station at Mamane Street and Koniaka Place.

The driver then got out and threatened a man, then began punching the window of the vehicle, causing the vehicle’s driver to depart, according to the commendation letter that pointed out Ines’ actions.

The suspected erratic driver headed toward the other driver, Ines said, in a “very threatening manner.”

But by now, Ines had caught up, exited his car and identified himself — in street clothes with dinner plans on hold — as a police officer.

That was all he could get out before the man, Ines said, charged him.

Although the suspect was about a foot taller than he was, Ines took him down “subduing the aggressor for over five minutes until an on-duty officer arrived,” the commendation letter reported.

“Officer Ines’ selfless act stopped the aggressor from assaulting another citizen and (is) in keeping with the highest traditions of public service,” wrote Sgt. Edwin Buyten in his recommendation letter.

Ines said keeping the aggressor — later identified as Shon Kelii Santangelo, 39, Kailua-Kona, who is charged with unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, resisting arrest and third-degree theft — at bay seemed a lot longer.

“Ten minutes is a long time. A long, long time,” Ines said.

It took him back to his days as a wrestler at Honokaa High School, as he struggled to hold on to the man until backup arrived.

When other officers arrived, Ines left and filled out his part of the paperwork involved.

By that time, Ines was going to be late for work later that day. Calling in and explaining, he was given some extra time and had a chance to eat, finally, with his wife. And she drove.

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Ines said he hopes the public realizes their assistance can be critical. After all, initially he had only planned to be a good witness.

“Don’t be ashamed, don’t be afraid to call,” he said.

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