A 43-year-old man will spend up to a half-decade behind bars for a 2019 shooting that injured one and triggered an 11-day manhunt.
Kona Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim sentenced Walter Gomes III on Monday to serve concurrent five-year terms for second-degree assault and two counts first-degree resisting an order to stop a motor vehicle in connection with the series of events that began March 20, 2019, when a woman showed up at Kona Community Hospital with a gunshot wound to her face.
Hawaii Police Department officers first ran into Gomes the following day by Costco in Kailua-Kona. After refusing commands, police said officers opened fire when Gomes reportedly drove at them.
After fleeing, officers encountered Gomes two more times in North Kohala where officers discharging weapons in both incidents, including near Old Camp 17 Road when he crashed into a subsidized police vehicle. After that, Gomes disappeared into the North Kohala brush.
While there were reported sightings of Gomes, he wasn’t officially seen until days later on March 31, 2019, in Captain Cook, where he was taken into custody without incident and later charged with 15 counts to which he pleaded not guilty.
In early April, Gomes pleaded no contest to second-degree assault and two counts first-degree resisting an order to stop a motor vehicle. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed to drop 12 of the charges initially filed against Gomes, including three Class B and three Class C felonies.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Annaliese Wolfe on Monday recommended the judge hand down concurrent five-year sentences per the plea agreement meted this spring.
In her argument against probation, Wolfe said Gomes’ conduct caused “serious and significant harm” to the victim, as well as the public “as he fled from police on numerous occasions.” She added the crimes occurred despite him nearing the end of probation for a 2014 case.
“That also weighs in favor of the state that this conduct occurred even after significant time on probation as he had already come close to completing it,” Wolfe said. “So, (probation) had not had much an impact on him.”
Keith Shigetomi, Gomes’ court-appointed public defender, asked the judge to abide by the plea agreement and sentence his client to an indeterminate period of five years.
“He accepts responsibility and he wants to take advantage of whatever programs he can to get back out,” said Shigetomi.
In his allocution, Gomes said “a lot of people have this whole case twisted about what happened” stating that he was being robbed. “There’s no talk about me at gunpoint,” he said.
Admitting that while he “relapsed” on crystal methamphetamine the day of his arrest, he was not under that — or any other — drug’s influence on March 20, 2019.
“I passed all my drug tests,” he told the court, referring to screenings conducted as part of his probation for the 2014 case.
Continuing to say the incident was a “misunderstanding,” Gomes stated he “was in no way trying to hurt anybody.”
“When the cops approached me, they never even told me nothing about, you know, somebody being shot or anything like that. They just had me at gunpoint and, you know, I complied,” he told the court, “and after, you know, I asked them to, you know, to drop their guns and they refused, I made a move back to my vehicle and they started shooting at me.
“Unfortunately, nothing was on camera so there’s no way I can try to prove myself,” he said.
“What happened” to the victim was an accident, Gomes said.
“If she didn’t have the gun pointed at me and I hadn’t twisted it around her, then she would have never gotten shot,” he said.
Gomes closed saying “I’ve learned my lesson from trying to help any body who is on drugs from this moment on — I have definitely.
“And, I’m not saying I’m not at fault but, you know, I’m sorry for her and I hope she can get her life together and that’s about it, you know, that’s all I have to say.”
The Hawaii Paroling Authority will set Gomes’ minimum term within six months. He will receive credit for time served since his arrest last April. Kim also sentenced Gomes to serve concurrently a five-year term for violating probation.