Civilians who disarmed gunman receive HPD Medal of Valor

Vaovai Tavai, Jr
Vaovai Tavai, Jr
Dennis Niupulusu
Dennis Niupulusu
Maj. Dave Kajihiro
Maj. Dave Kajihiro

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

KANEOHE (KHNL) - The Honolulu Police Department on Wednesday presented awards to a group of civilians, including two men who risked their lives to disarm a gunman in Aiea.

Citing their courageous actions, HPD gave the two men its highest honor for civilians. Each received the Medal of Valor.

Vaovai Tavai, Jr., 27, and Dennis Niupulusu, 22, say they simply did what was right. Police beg to differ.

"They definitely prevented what could have been a very tragic situation," Maj. Dave Kajihiro, Honolulu Police Department, said. "Who knows how many lives they may have saved."

The men were working as bouncers at Chez Monique at about 3 am, November 18, 2008, when they saw a man sitting at the bar holding a gun.

"He was loading up. He was loading his gun up," Tavai said.

"What was going through your mind?" this reporter asked Niupulusu.

"Oh, my mind was everywhere," he replied.

With little regard for their own safety,

"They immediately grabbed the male and a struggle ensued for the firearm," Kajihiro said.

"Knock him out, you know, kick him," Tavai recalled while laughing. "And then we took the gun from him."

"You know you're going to die already, you know," Niupulusu said about the danger involved. "Just having the courage and, you know, to step up and disarm that person with the gun, just, it's an honor."

Police later arrested the suspect.

"Due to their quick bravery, courageous actions, selfless actions, too, I'm honored to present the Civilian Medal of Valor to each of them," Kajihiro said.

It's HPD's highest civilian award.

"It's just the way that blood runs through us, you know, Samoans. You know what I mean?" Niupulusu said.

The department also recognizes two teenagers, Travis Kau and Tyara Pascua, for helping a 12-year-old boy who was robbed. Each receives a letter of commendation.

"How do you feel about getting this honor by HPD?" this reporter asked Tavai.

"It means a lot, you know. For us, driving on the road, probably we don't have ticket anymore," he replied while laughing.

Since 1994, the department has given out 45 Medals of Valor to civilians. Of course, it doesn't encourage members of the public to intervene in dangerous situations.