KEALAKEKUA — Malia Lajala told police she asked Justin Waiki on Friday to turn himself in the days after he became a suspect in last week’s shooting death of Officer Bronson Kaliloa.
“He wasn’t gonna turn himself in. He knew he was going to die,” Lajala was heard saying in an “advisement of rights” recording played in Kona District Court during a preliminary hearing Tuesday.
Lajala, 30, of Hilo, is one of three suspects charged with accomplice to first-degree attempted murder — punishable by up to life in prison without parole — in a shooting incident on South Point Road on Friday, which led to the death of Waiki and injury of a police sergeant.
Jorge Pagan Torres, 35, of Hilo, and Krystle Ferreira, 29, of Waimea have also been charged.
The shootout ended an islandwide manhunt for Waiki, who allegedly shot and killed Kaliloa on July 17 during a traffic stop in Mountain View. The search for the fugitive was highly publicized locally and statewide. A reward of $33,000 was being offered for information leading to his capture.
Only one witness took the stand during Tuesday’s hearing. Detective Gerome Manuel testified that he spoke to Lajala after the South Point shooting. After advising her of her rights, the detective conducted an interview, which was recorded, as is common practice for the Hawaii Police Department.
Deputy Prosecutor Kauanoe Jackson provided a laptop and a copy of the interview, which was recorded on a CD to Manuel to play for the courtroom.
Judge Margaret Masunaga granted a gag order on names Lajala’s spoke about during the interview. The only names allowed to be reported from the recording were those of the defendants.
In the recording, Lajala can be heard telling Manuel that police had come to her home looking for Waiki after Kaliloa’s shooting. However, she didn’t make contact with him until Friday morning, when she met him and a 35-year-old woman at the Hilo Taco Bell with Pagan-Torres and Ferreira.
The woman cannot be identified as her name is included in the judge’s gag order.
At that time, Lajala stated she tried to get Waiki to turn himself. She even made calls to the mother of his child to see if she could reason with him.
“He got really mad at me,” Lajala said when she made the call.
Eventually, the group of five traveling in a Toyota 4Runner started to drive to South Point. Lajala told Manuel everyone knew Waiki was armed with a revolver.
“I didn’t know where to go,” Lajala stated. “I was scared.”
Lajala added Ferreira was also getting scared as they continued their drive toward South Point.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” she stated to Manuel. “I was high.”
Lajala stated the group drove to the beach down in South Point. It was there she again tried to convince Waiki to turn himself over to authorities.
“He said he was gonna shoot himself before they shot him,” Lajala stated in the recording.
Lajala told Manuel that she was the one who decided to leave the beach.
“I wanted it to be over already,” she stated.
Lajala suspected it was the 35-year-old woman who made contact with someone about their location. Court documents filed Monday state police were able to narrow Waiki’s location by “pinging” cellphones of the fugitive’s known associates.
Lajala can be heard telling Manuel that Waiki and the 35-year-old woman jumped in the very back of the vehicle and covered themselves up with a blanket and other items. She iterated several times that the pair covered themselves, and that they were not assisted.
When the group was stopped at the roadblock on South Point Road, Lajala told Manuel that they tried to tell officers Waiki was in the back without verbally saying so.
“They told us to pop open the back because they’re looking for a wanted fugitive,” Lajala recalled.
As police have reported, Waiki and police became engaged in a shootout after uncovering his location. Lajala added that Waiki shot the 35-year-old woman who was hiding in the back with him.
Lajala can be heard crying as she recalled the shooting.
Lajala stated in her interview she heard the woman say: “Ow, Justin! Ow, Justin!” Over and over again.
Lajala told Manuel she saw everything happen because she sat facing the back with her hands up.
“There was so much shots I heard,” she stated.
The shootout injured Hawaii Police Sgt. Bryan Tina. Tina, a 12-year Hawaii Police Department veteran, suffered arm and chest wounds. He was taken to Hilo Medical Center for treatment and has since been released.
Court records indicate Pagan-Torres has 21 criminal convictions, including three felonies for promoting a dangerous drug, forgery and driving a stolen vehicle.
Lajala has 14 criminal convictions, including felony robbery and attempted burglary.
Ferreira has no criminal record.
The preliminary hearing was continued to Aug. 23.