HILO — Condolences to the family of fallen Puna patrol Officer Bronson Kaimana Kaliloa poured in Wednesday as word spread that the 10-year Hawaii Police Department veteran was shot and killed Tuesday night, allegedly by a man wanted on an arrest warrant.
Meanwhile, the manhunt for the suspect, 33-year-old Justin Joshua Waiki, who reportedly escaped on foot into the woods off Highway 11 in Mountain View after allegedly firing the shots that felled the officer, continued as of press time Wednesday.
Police said they formed a task force “that will be operating 24-hours a day, relentlessly following up on tips and information regarding the whereabouts of (the) fugitive,” and the FBI announced it is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading Waiki’s arrest.
“It is with a heavy heart that I extend my sincere condolences to Officer Bronson K. Kaliloa’s family, his loved ones and his colleagues,” Gov. David Ige said in a statement. “… As we mourn this tragic loss, let us honor Officer Kaliloa and all men and women in blue for their bravery and commitment to keeping our families and communities safe.”
The family of 46-year-old Kaliloa, a Kauai native and 1990 alumnus of Waimea High School, released a brief text-message statement saying the officer “loved the Lord with all his heart.”
“He was a proud father of three, ages 7, 4 and 3, an adoring and loving husband and devoted son,” the family said. “Passionate about serving his Lord and community, he was always making sure people felt loved and respected.”
Police say Kaliloa and other officers, acting on a tip, had found Waiki’s vehicle by the side of the road on Highway 11 near Kukui Camp Road at about 9:47 p.m. Tuesday. Waiki got out of the front seat and fired what they think was a handgun, striking Kaliloa in the neck and leg.
Kaliloa was taken by ambulance to the Hilo Medical Center and underwent surgery, but was pronounced dead at 12:45 a.m. Wednesday.
An emotional Chief Paul Ferreira met the news media Wednesday and said it was “the worst day of my 36-year career.”
“This was an officer, this was a father, a son and a husband. Put a face to the name,” Ferreira said while pointing to a projected image of Kaliloa holding a plaque he was awarded as Puna’s 2014 Officer of the Year.
Ferreira said Waiki, whose last known address was in Las Vegas, was being sought on a no-bail warrant for revocation of his bail conditions.
“He has 37 prior arrests for various offenses, which included 16 convictions. Three of those were felony convictions that include firearm offenses, drug offenses and forgery,” Ferreira said.
The chief said there was no indication that Waiki was struck by return fire from two of Kaliloa’s fellow officers.
Ferreira noted that while several officers had been shot and wounded on the job, including Officer Roger Carvalho on Feb. 22 and Officers Joshua Gouveia and Garrett Hatada on Jan. 2, 2013, he’s unaware of any previous officers being shot and killed in the department’s history.
Kaliloa is the fifth Big Island police officer to die in the line of duty. The others are Manuel Cadinha in 1918, William “Red” Oili in 1936, Ronald “Shige” Jitchaku in 1990 and Kenneth Keliipio in 1997.
Ferreira said he met with Kaliloa’s wife and father Tuesday night at the hospital, and closed with words of gratitude and recognition.
“I want to recognize the Hawaii Fire Department’s medical unit,” the chief said. “They responded to the scene to provide the initial lifesaving measures and transporting Bronson to the Hilo Medical Center in record time. I left my house at the time I got the call, and they were already at the emergency room.
“Secondly, I wish to recognize all the staff at the Hilo Medical Center Emergency Room — the trauma team, the surgical team, and all of the staff nurses and doctors that were there … for Officer Kaliloa and his family. … From the moment Bronson entered the emergency room, he was treated like a natural treasure, with the entire staff doing everything in their power to keep him alive.
“… Lastly, I want to recognize all of the men and women of the Hawaii Police Department that put their lives on the line daily to keep your community safe, never knowing what the next call for service has in store for them or if that traffic stop that they are making can result in the end of watch for them, as it did with Officer Kaliloa. These are my heroes, anyone that has the courage and commitment to put on the police officer’s badge — not seeking any praise or glory, just wanting to do their job and return home when the day is done.”
Ferreira said the officers who discharged their weapons were placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of internal investigations and “a check of their well-being.”
Mayor Harry Kim sat quietly in the back of the conference room as Ferreira addressed the media. Looking tired and drawn, Kim questioned the violent nature of humanity, saying, “I really wonder about us as people.”
Kim said he had met Kaliloa but didn’t know him personally.
“The picture of him, the talk about his life, his family, makes it so personal. The why, such waste of such a good man. … Why are we like this?” the mayor asked, rhetorically.
Entertainer Mark Yamanaka posted on Facebook that his “thoughts and prayers go out to Officer Kaliloa and his ohana.”
“Before you bad-mouth our police, support their bravery, because they (are) handling business that most of us would be too scared to handle,” the multiple Na Hoku Hanohano award-winner said.
Waiki, is described as 5-foot-11-inches tall and about 145 pounds. He has a tattoo on the front of his neck, and was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and dark jacket.
Waiki is considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call the police nonemergency line at 935-3311 or Crime Stoppers at 961-8300.
Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to contact Detective William Brown at 961-2384 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.