Honolulu Deputy Police Chief Dave Kajihiro says a six-year veteran of the force was protecting himself and pedestrians when he opened fire Wednesday evening on a 52-year-old Manoa man who refused to obey orders to get out of his car.
"The suspect refused several orders given by the officer," Kajihiro told reporters during a news conference at police headquarters Thursday. "Instead, the driver made a U-turn in the middle of Kuhio Avenue and sped off, hitting a tree on the sidewalk and narrowly missing pedestrians."
A witness tells KITV4 the officer fired five shots through the open driver's-side window at close range. The unidentified driver of the blue Volkswagen Jetta was pronounced dead a short time later.
"The cop went turn his gun sideways and put five shots," said a Waikiki resident who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of police reprisal. "I seen 'em. Five shots close by; close range."
Police confirm five shots were fired, but did not say how far away the officer was standing.
Kajihiro says the officer had to make a split-second decision on how to stop the threat to himself and those who were in the immediate area. However, he admitted the car sped out of control after the driver was shot, and this to could have posed a threat to bystanders.
"Sure, and that's the thing that officers have to weigh, a split-second decision," he said. "Do we let the driver go on and strike pedestrians? Or do we try and stop the threat? In this case, he decided to stop the threat."
The vehicle struck a second palm tree with such force, the engine block was separated from the chassis and debris was strewn for several blocks.
Cellphone video obtained by KITV4 corroborates part of Kajihiro's account of the shooting. The video shows the driver refusing to obey the officer's orders, making a U-turn on Kuhio Avenue and dragging the officer several feet before hitting a palm tree. The video then cuts off.
Maj. Lester Hite, commander of the Criminal Investigation Division, initially told reporters the officer was attempting to remove an alcoholic beverage from the vehicle. However, Kajihiro later corrected the statement, saying the officer was attempting to put the vehicle in park.
"Instead of the alcohol, I think he was trying to stop the vehicle from going," said Kajihiro. "So, he was reaching in trying to take 'em out of gear."
The officer is a six-year veteran who serves in the Waikiki district. He has been placed on paid administrative duty as an internal investigation continues, which is standard procedure in an officer-involved shooting.
Some of those who live near where the shooting took place are supporting the officer's actions.
"He was talking to his fellow officers and they were telling him to calm down and he kept repeating, 'Like I had to, like I had to,'" said Sophie O'Dell, who lives at the Kuhio Ebbtide. "In no way do I think he was in the wrong for shooting him, but I wasn't there either."
"The guy was driving out of control (and) he hit a tree before he was shot at," added Matt Yates, Odell's fiance. "So, I think it's reasonable to assume that if they let him keep going, then he would've continued to drive out of control and possibly kill somebody."
Kajihiro said the episode began when the officer responded to a report of someone damaging a bus on Kuhio Avenue. When the officer approached, he witnessed the driver rear-end the bus in question and take a drink from an alcoholic beverage.
This is the second officer-involved shooting on Oahu that has resulted in a fatality in the past year and a half.
In January 2013, Schofield Barracks soldier Gregory Gordon, 22, was killed after he rammed several patrol cars that had surrounded his pickup on Ala Wai Boulevard. Gordon's blood alcohol level was 2.5 times above the legal limit, and the Nashville Waikiki was cited by the Honolulu Liquor Commission for over-serving the Afghanistan war veteran.
According to Honolulu police spokeswoman Teresa Bell, there have been seven fatal officer-involved shootings in the past five years.
Kajihiro said he's always concerned about public perception regarding the police force, but is standing by the actions of his officer.
"As far as our training, procedures and policies, we always review those after every incident on a daily basis," he said. "Our officers are very highly trained."
Police: Officer was protecting himself and others when he opened firePublished 7:11 PM HST Jul 31, 2014
Honolulu Deputy Police Chief Dave Kajihiro says a six-year veteran of the force was protecting himself and pedestrians when he opened fire Wednesday evening on a 52-year-old Manoa man who refused to obey orders to get out of his car.Recommended