First accomplice sentenced in 2018 fatal shooting of Big Island police officer

  • Kiel Brende leaves Kona Circuit Court after being sentenced to five years in prison by Judge Robert D.S. Kim Monday afternoon. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KEALAKEKUA — The man who tipped off police to Justin Waiki’s whereabouts, witnessed the fatal shooting of Hawaii Police Department Officer Bronson Kaliloa and then gave the suspected shooter a ride from the scene last summer has been sentenced to prison.

Kiel Brende was ordered to serve an indeterminate period of five years in prison for his role of hindering prosecution in the case that kept the community in a state of fear for several days as police tracked down and ultimately killed Waiki in an exchange of bullets on July 20, 2018, in Ka‘u. Six others await adjudication.

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“You did it,” Kona Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim said to Brende as the man sobbed after being ordered to a half-decade behind bars during a sentencing hearing Monday afternoon.

“I’m sorry, your honor,” Brende replied.

“Well, don’t be sorry to me. Be sorry for the community and what little children could have been run over in the high speed chases and what could have happened,” Kim responded. “You’re going to pay for the crime and it’s a message to the community that this is not going to be tolerated. This court will not tolerate it and that’s the sanctions.”

With that statement from the judge, the shackles came out and Sheriff’s deputies took Brende — who’d been free on bail since being indicted last August — into custody for processing to begin serving the maximum term that could be handed down for the crime of first-degree hindering prosecution, a Class C felony. His wails could be heard throughout the court facility.

The Hawaii Paroling Authority will set the actual minimum term that Brende will have to serve before becoming eligible for parole within six months.

“The state is happy with the sentence rendered by the court because it is just under the circumstances of this case, and we hope it continues,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sheri Lawson said outside the courtroom.

Brende’s court-appointed attorney, Frank Miller, declined comment after the hearing.

Miller had argued for four years probation and a deferred acceptance of his client’s guilty plea, which was entered back in June.

Miller pointed to Brende’s unlikeliness to engage in future crimes, lack of criminal history, employment, meeting court-ordered conditions, newly expanded family and other things as reasoning for probation, and the ability to have a his record expunged if he meets conditions of a deferred sentence.

“Society really doesn’t need to be protected from Mr. Brende,” Miller told the court. “I will submit that justice will be served if he’s allowed to work this terrible incident off his record.”

He asked his client be sentenced not for the actions of the other six people charged in connection with aiding Waiki in the wake of his shooting of Kaliloa.

“He’s not the same as the other six, no one is alike,” Miller said. “It would not be fair to attribute to him actually the actions of other people involved.”

Kauanoe Jackson, who handled the sentencing, asked the judge to give Brende the five-year prison sentence that goes along for hindering prosecution. The deputy prosecutor outlined a handful of times Brende’s actions differed from his claims of intending to aid officers in apprehending Waiki.

That included not telling police he picked up Waiki near the scene of the fatal shooting the evening of July 17, 2018 and lying to police that Waiki had fled his home when they arrived not long thereafter. He had numerous instances to provide the information in controlled environments, she said.

“All of this information does exactly the opposite of what the defendant says he tried to do, which is to aid and protect them (the officers),” Jackson said. “Instead the exact opposite happened.”

She said his conduct was detrimental to society, and it needed to be met with a stiff sentence.

“This is the type of conduct that we would want this community to be deterred from. We do not want to let this particular crime be something that incites additional people to aid dangerous people,” she said.

Before Kim rendered his sentence, Brende addressed the court, first expressing his condolences to “Officer Bronson’s family.”

“I realize that what I did was wrong and there’s no excuse for me withholding evidence form the police. I really wasn’t trying to help Justin get away from you — the police — I deal with it every day,” Brende said. “What happened is why I plead guilty because I didn’t want to waste the courts time and try to tell you guys something that wasn’t true.

“I did what I did and I’m really sorry about that.”

He asked for leniency from judge, noting he is a hard worker who’s met all the court’s conditions and that he needs to be able to provide for a recently born baby and girlfriend who suffered injuries during the child’s birth.

“In my heart, I hope you can see that I’m not a bad person but I really am,” Brende said, pausing for several seconds, “a good person in the community.”

Brende’s sentencing is the first for the group of seven people charged with various crimes in connection with aiding Waiki after the 33-year-old allegedly shot and killed Kaliloa on July 17, 2018, during a traffic stop on Highway 11 in Mountain View. The veteran police officer died early July 18.

Also charged are Krystle Ferreira, Malia Lajala, Jorge Pagan-Torres, Jamie Jason, Mokihana Veincent and Taumi Carr. Like Brende, Veincent and Carr faced lesser charges.

Ferreira, Lajala and Pagan-Torres are set to stand trial Sept. 10 at the new Keahuolu Courthouse. The two women and man are each charged with two counts of first-degree hindering prosecution, first-degree attempted murder and place to keep pistol or revolver. Lajala faces an additional charge of third-degree promoting a dangerous drug.

The upcoming trial date was set earlier this month after the state’s case against Ferreira, Lajala and Pagan-Torres was separated from Jason’s in July. The four had been set to go on trial June 27 before Kona Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim, however, arguments over appeals and jurisdiction delayed the matter.

Jason faces two counts of first-degree hindering prosecution, first-degree attempted murder and place to keep pistol or revolver, and two firearms offenses, ownership or possession prohibited fugitive. A trial date has yet to be set.

Veincent and Carr were each charged with first-degree hindering prosecution and conspiracy. Veincent was also charged with two counts of accomplice to ownership/possession, (of a firearm), prohibited.

Carr is set to stand trial in December. Veincent earlier this month pleaded guilty to first-degree hindering prosecution. Her sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 16.

Brende, who initially was charged with two counts first-degree hindering prosecution, pleaded guilty to one count back in June.

Court documents filed July 30 state Brende was the one who called a police detective that night to tip them off that Waiki, who had bench warrants for his arrest, was in a broken-down vehicle on the side of the highway in the area of Kukui Camp Road. He told police he was headed to the area after being asked to pick up Waiki.

The detective relayed the information to police on the road. Three officers, including Kaliloa, responded and came upon the vehicle around 9:30 p.m. in an unlit area. After announcing their presence with lights and sirens, officers saw movement in the vehicle and knocked on the vehicle’s trunk, telling the occupant to come out with his hands up.

The findings of fact and conclusions of law document states Waiki said in a calm fashion that he was coming out. He then exited the driver’s door, began shooting and then fled the area on foot.

After the shooting, Brende called the detective and stated “Justin just shot an officer.”

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He later met with the detective, telling him that he’d drove up to where Waiki’s blue vehicle was and saw patrol officers conducting a traffic stop.

“Brende passed the vehicle and he could hear gunshots, he turned and saw the gunshots and an officer being dragged on the ground,” the filing reads.

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