Woman complains of slow police response in Mountain View case

  • MICHAEL T. SOARES

HILO — The owner of a Mountain View home where a police officer fired a shot Saturday morning while apprehending a wanted fugitive criticized the slowness of police response to her call for assistance.

The woman, who requested anonymity, said she called 911 at 6:52 a.m.

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“The police didn’t show up for more than an hour after the initial 911 call,” she said. “That kind of defeats the purpose of 911. It’s supposed to be urgent and an emergency. It was a mess.”

Hawaii Police Department officers arrived at the Ihope Road home at 8 a.m., the woman said — after she had made three calls to dispatch, seeking assistance because of an intruder passed out in a van with the motor running in her driveway.

During the second call, a half-hour after the first, the resident said she was told by a dispatcher it was shift change time. During the final call, the woman said, she was “literally yelling at the dispatcher.”

“I know it’s not the dispatcher’s fault, but I had to release my anger somewhere, because that was just plain wrong. We had already mentioned that there were children in the house,” she said. “One of the dispatchers said, ‘Oh, there’s a shift change.’ I was thinking we could’ve been stabbed or shot and we could’ve been bleeding … . But because the police had a shift change, that was more important than this 911 call. I was furious at that point, frustrated and upset.”

The homeowner said Hawaii Fire Department medics arrived before police and “noticed the vehicle was hot-wired.”

“So the medics told my fiancé, ‘Don’t wake him up. We don’t know what we are dealing with. Let’s just wait until the police show up,’” she added. “I had two minor children who were with me at home when this whole incident transpired on Saturday morning.

“It was terrifying. It was very confusing. The engine was running. So this intruder, the fugitive … he was passed out, literally. For all I knew, he could be expired already, in the driver’s seat. He was there for hours, and another hour and 8 minutes after the 911 call was made.”

According to police, officers found a hot-wired 1991 Ford Explorer SUV parked near the house.

Passed out behind the wheel was a man they identified as 30-year-old Michael T. Soares of Hilo. He was wanted on a warrant for violating parole on an auto theft conviction.

The homeowner said officers, once they arrived, were “very professional.” She said they barked out commands to the man behind the wheel.

“When he did wake up and ignored all their commands, what he did was put the car into drive, and he just slammed into the house. And my house shook,” she said. “It moved to the point to where my children and I were able to feel the whole entire house shaking.”

Police said Soares then shifted into reverse and backed up at a high rate of speed, heading directly toward an ambulance, two firemen and the woman’s fiancé, who were standing near the top of the driveway.

According to police, an officer fired one round through the windshield of the SUV as it was reversing. Soares then allegedly ducked behind the dash, and the SUV became lodged between the ambulance, the side of the house and some brush. Soares subsequently surrendered and was arrested.

No one was injured.

Soares was charged with first-degree property damage, a class B felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment upon conviction, plus first-degree trespassing and second-degree reckless endangerment, both misdemeanors.

At his initial court appearance Monday, Hilo District Judge Diana Van De Car ordered Soares to appear today for a preliminary hearing. He remains in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in lieu of $26,100 bail.

The officer who fired his weapon, a 13-year veteran, was placed on paid administrative leave pending both internal and criminal investigations into the incident, which is standard procedure whenever an officer discharges a weapon.

The homeowner said she checked into a hotel with her children to deal with the trauma of the incident away from the crime scene. She wonders why police “would not have a protocol” to respond to a call about an intruder before officers are allowed off watch.

“For all we know, there could’ve been guns in that truck, knives, whatever,” she said.

There is another complaint, as well.

“On Saturday, one of the (television) channels decided it was OK to air my personal address on their coverage of the news on TV,” the homeowner said. “That was an invasion of my privacy.”

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Police commanders were unable to be reached for comment on Tuesday, Kamehameha Day, a state holiday.

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

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