The death of a 3-year-old boy in Makaha on Wednesday evening in an incident involving a man accused of driving drunk has resulted in a call to action by community leaders.
Members of the Makaha Hawaiian Civic Club held a rally Friday afternoon at the spot where Ashton Brown was struck by a vehicle driven by Potasi Uta Jr., 44.
Brown's family was waiting at a bus stop near Makaha Beach Park when Uta's car went off the road at about 10:30 p.m.
Also injured in the collision were the toddler's mother, Charesse Brown, 41, and three siblings, ages 4, 8 and 11. As of Friday night, all of the surviving Browns remained hospitalized at the Queen's Medical Center. Ashton was pronounced dead at the scene.
"We need more community involvement. Enough is enough," said John Desoto, the Civic Club's president and former member of the Honolulu City Council.
Civic Club members and other community leaders want police to conduct more patrols in the area, which has become a hotbed for speeding along two-lane Farrington Highway.
"My main concern is lack of police patrols at night," said Gail Gomes, editor-in-chief of the Westside Stories newspaper.
Police who attended the rally in a show of support reminded frustrated residents that Honolulu Police Department resources are limited. Maj. Ray Ancheta, who serves in the district, said 20 police officers are responsible for covering an area from Kaena Point to Kunia Road.
"It shouldn't be us having to give a hundred tickets an hour for five hours," Ancheta told the crowd of about 50 people. "We need the community to love one another, malama one another (and) protect one another."
"Malama" means "to care for."
On the weekend before Ashton Brown died, HPD conducted a Safe Roads operation that resulted in the arrest of 12 people on drunken driving charges.
Some longtime Leeward Coast residents said the message of personal responsibility needs to begin at home. Maili resident Ethel Soares has seen parents provide alcohol to teenagers on several occasions.
"I have gone to parties where the parent had bought their son a huge bottle, you know, the biggest bottle on the beer," said Soares. "They offered my granddaughter drinks and I told her, 'Hell no, you're not drinking.'"
Some at the rally also called on lawmakers to get more actively involved in tackling the issue of drunken driving.
"They got to make tougher laws," said Makaha resident Michael Graziano. "Our kids are dying; our little kids are dying."
Desoto said the Civic Club would launch a campaign of community awareness through word of mouth, editorials and an ongoing dialogue with local lawmakers.
"We need help, and if we don't stay together, not just as friends (and) as a community," he said, "this thing is going to continue to get worse."
As of 6 p.m. Friday, Uta remained in police custody at the main Honolulu Police Department cellblock. He faces charges of negligent homicide in the first degree and driving under the influence.