Police: Hilo man fatally shot by officers fired more than 30 rounds

  • Police Chief Paul Ferreira speaks at the Police Week Ceremony Tuesday at the Kona Police Station. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Ryan Yukiharu Santos

Video from body cameras worn by Hawaii Police Department officers during a fatal officer-involved shooting Sunday night in Hilo will likely be released today, Chief Paul Ferreira said Monday afternoon.

South Hilo patrol officers responded at 7:10 p.m. to a report of a physical domestic at a residence on Mokuhonua Lane in Hilo, Ferreira said. Upon arrival, the four officers attempted to contact the occupants of the residence.

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A man, later identified as 34-year-old Ryan Yukiharu Santos of Hilo, spoke with police at a doorway leading from the garage into home.

“Santos told officers everything was OK and closed the door,” Ferreira said.

Officers then informed him that they needed to speak and check on the welfare of the other family members in the home and proceeded to the front door to make contact with a female occupant who could be seen in the living room area. Ferreira said four other people were in the home at the time, including Santos’s mother, grandfather, aunt and brother. It was Santos’s brother who summoned police to the physical domestic in which their mother was the victim.

“Immediately after making contact with the female occupant, who later was identified as Ryan Santos’s aunty, the suspect Ryan Santos, emerged from the kitchen area with a rifle in hand, aiming at the officers, who began immediately retreating from the residence seeking cover,” Ferreira said during a press conference. “Santos began firing at the officers and yelling and swearing as they retreated.”

Santos then reportedly exited the home, and while on the front balcony continued firing at the officers.

One officer, a 13-year veteran of the department, returned fire from the cover of an abandoned vehicle on the roadway and struck the suspect several times. Four to five shots were fired by the single officer with at least one hitting the suspect.

“After being shot, Santos was able to retreat back into the home where he succumbed to his injuries,” Ferreira said. An autopsy has been scheduled for today.

During the course of the incident, the 91-year-old grandfather inside the home appeared to go into cardiac arrest. He was transported by medics to Hilo Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead.

“It is believed he died from a medical condition, however, an autopsy has been ordered to determine the exact cause of death,” Ferreira said.

Ferreira said initial investigation determined in excess of 30 rounds were fired by Santos from two different rifles.

“Some of the rounds fired struck four police vehicles as well as into a neighboring residence,” he said, later noting the home was unoccupied at the time. “Fortunately, it did not result in any injuries to innocent parties or the officers.”

Inside Santos’s home, police recovered four firearms, including an AR15 “ghost gun,” which is made of and parts purchased and put together with no serial numbers or identifying marks, reportedly used by Santos during the incident. Also recovered were a bolt-action rifle and two shotguns.

None of the firearms recovered belonged to Santos, who Ferreira said is a convicted felon and prohibited from owning such weapons.

“Checks are still being conducted on the history of the firearms,” Ferreira said, later confirming that dispatch was advised weapons were likely inside the home when responding though Santos was unarmed at the time of the report.

Santos has been convicted of second-degree assault and petty misdemeanor offenses of abuse, drugs and assault. He also has 10 arrests on his record for misdemeanor offenses, Ferreira said.

According to court records, the 34-year-old was out on $1,000 bail at the time of Sunday’s incident. He was due in court on June 23 to enter a plea to a single count of misdemeanor abuse of a family or household member.

Detectives from the Area I Criminal Investigations Section are continuing the criminal investigation into this matter, police said. Detectives from the Office of Professional Standards have opened a standard internal investigation into this incident.

Ferreira said that footage from cameras worn by the officers would be likely be released today. The department finished outfitting its patrol officers with cameras in December. It was the last in the state to equip its officers with body cameras.

The four officers involved have been placed on administrative leave as is standard practice in this type of incident, police said.

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“The officer that was involved in the shooting was placed on mandatory leave and the other three officers are waiting to see if they need to seek counseling of any type or a wellness exam done by professional psychologist,” Ferreira said. “It does impact our staffing, however, we have sufficient coverage using officers form different watches or different beats.”

Anyone with information regarding this incident should contact Detective John Balberde of the Area I Criminal Investigations Section at (808) 961-2386 or via email at john.balberde@hawaiicounty.gov.

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