Prosecutor: Standoff suspect used firearm to force sex

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Eric Ragragola appears Thursday in Hilo District Court.

HILO — A man accused of a holding a woman hostage at gunpoint and engaging in a three-hour standoff with police Tuesday in Fern Acres subdivision threatened to shoot the victim if she didn’t have sex with him, a prosecutor said Thursday in Hilo District Court.

Eric Jason Ragragola is charged with first-degree sexual assault, kidnapping, the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, being a felon in possession of a firearm, first-degree terroristic threatening and domestic abuse.

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At Ragragola’s initial court appearance, his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Isaac Ickes, asked Judge Kanani Laubach to grant his client supervised release, “notwithstanding the recommendation of Intake Services.”

The standoff was resolved without gunfire after the Special Response Team — the Hawaii Police Department’s SWAT unit — entered the property and encountered no resistance from Ragragola. A subsequent search of the property turned up what police called “an AR-15 type rifle” and ammunition.

Deputy Prosecutor Evans Smith asked the judge to maintain Ragragola’s $140,000 bail and to set $50,000 additional bail on the use of a firearm in a felony charge, a Class A felony which carries a possible 20-year prison term upon conviction. The sex assault and kidnapping charges also are Class A felonies.

“The reason we’re looking for high bail here is the firearm use in this matter,” Smith said. “And while they are only allegations, they are quite serious. Use of a firearm to have unwanted intercourse, that’s the allegation. … So there is an individualized risk to a witness, perhaps even the community, by releasing this individual on supervised release or reduced bail.”

Smith added that Ragragola has a second-degree assault conviction, a Class C felony, “albeit from 1992.”

The judge maintained Ragragola’s $140,000 bail and added $10 bail on the use of a firearm in a felony charge since a probable cause affidavit didn’t accompany the complaint.

Laubach also ordered Ragragola to return to court at 2 p.m. Monday for a preliminary hearing.

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Potential witnesses or anyone with additional information about the standoff is asked to call the police nonemergency line at 935-3311 or Detective Tuckloy Aurello at 961-2385. Those who prefer anonymity may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300.

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