HONOLULU – A man suspected of gunning down a Hawaii police officer was killed during a shootout with officers Friday after a three-day search across the Big Island, authorities said.
Justin Waiki was killed and an officer was injured during the shootout, Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe told the Associated Press after receiving confirmation from the police chief.
The officer was taken to Hilo Medical Center, Okabe said.
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim told the AP in a phone interview that the officer will survive. “Chief of police just called to say that the wounds were not life threatening, and he will be OK,” the mayor said.
A woman who was with Waiki was also shot and wounded during the shooting at the extreme southern end of the Big Island, police spokesman Alan Richmond said. Her condition was not immediately known.
Local and U.S. authorizes launched a manhunt for Waiki after Officer Bronson Kaimana Kaliloa was shot and killed during a shootout Tuesday following a traffic stop near Hilo.
The suspect fled into the brush on a dark and rainy evening.
A 24-hour task force followed up on tips and information about Waiki’s whereabouts. Maj. Samuel Jelsma said police believed his associates were helping hide him on the vast island, where the erupting Kilauea volcano has attracted worldwide attention in recent months.
Two of Waiki’s associates were arrested after an undercover officer approached a suspicious pickup truck with a man and woman inside on Thursday on the other side of the island from where the shooting took place.
The officer drew his weapon and ordered the two people to leave the truck. Instead, they fled and police chased them.
Kaliloa, 46, was the first police officer to be fatally shot on the Big Island. He had been married for 23 years and had three children. He was “Officer of the Year” for his district in 2014.
Kaliloa’s niece Kawehi Haug sent a Facebook message Thursday to the Associated Press. “He was strong and kind and funny and smart and chivalrous and served his community every day as an honest and upstanding police officer whose convictions guided him to always do the right thing,” she wrote.
She also said he was a loving husband and father. Kaliloa and his wife adopted their three children, ages 3, 4 and 7, through the state foster care system, Haug said.
The U.S. Marshals Service, FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had each offered $10,000 rewards for information leading to the capture of Waiki.
The violence has had a profound effect on the Big Island community. Kim said.
“The entire island is a small community. This kind of violence is not your everyday thing, thank God. But I think this is a wakeup call and you can just see all around people’s appreciation for our police department,” he said. “I’m glad they see the value of the officers.”
The officer injured in Friday’s shootout “had a vest on, the bullets did not his any of the so-called vital organs,” he said. “None of the wounds were life-threatening, and he’ll be fine.”
When the mayor drove up to the hospital he saw family, friends and many other police officers gathering there.
“To see their sadness and care for their fellow officer and friend, it really impacts you, it really, really does, to see how much of a family they are,” he said. “When I saw them all in a circle holding hands in prayer form, that’s when you know it’s a good community.”
The killing of Officer Kaliloa has left a scar, however, Kim said.
“It takes something like this for people to step back a little bit and see the tough job (police) have,” he said. The suspect “did harm and left a void and an emptiness and a darkness that I don’t think will ever be filled.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.