Hilo man in critical condition after police shooting

James Salai
James Salai

HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Big Island police say a 31-year-old man was shot and critically wounded by officers after he sped into their police vehicle and then reversed toward them.

The incident occurred shortly before midnight Saturday night. Investigators said patrol officers were just leaving the area of the Kilauea Avenue extension in a marked vehicle, and were stopped at the Mamo Street intersection. That's when a silver late-model Chevy compact sedan sped toward them and struck the police vehicle.

Trish Owens is a co-owner of Pineapples, a nearby restaurant. She said four of her employees were behind the restaurant at the time, with an officer investigating a car break-in. "They heard a screeching noise coming down Mamo," she said. "It made a U-turn, came back and went straight on into the officer's car that was parked here taking the report."

The suspect's car then continued northbound on the Kilauea Avenue extension and struck a parked car, injuring one of the workers, a 27-year-old Ookala woman, who was standing next to it. She sustained minor injuries.

Both officers then got out of their vehicle. Police said the suspect's car then reversed toward the officers. "He backed up and right toward the officers' car, and they opened fire," said Owens. "And they shot 16 times."

Investigators said after the shooting, the car continued northbound on the Kilauea Avenue extension, turned left on Haili Street and then made its way onto Kinoole Street headed south. Officers pursued the car and stopped it at the intersection of Haihai Street and Kinoole Street.

Police arrested the driver, 31-year-old James Salai of Hilo, on suspicion of terroristic threatening. Salai was taken to Hilo Medical Center for treatment of apparent gunshot wounds. He was later transferred to the Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu in critical condition.

According to criminal records, Salai was convicted of driving under the influence in December 2013. He was sentenced to 79 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $30 criminal injury compensation fee.

Hawaii Police identified the officers as a 32-year-old with seven and-a-half years experience, and a 28-year-old with six months experience. Neither officer was injured.

Both officers have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure in a police shooting. Assistant Chief Henry Tavares said the Criminal Investigations Section will conduct a criminal investigation into the shooting, while the Office of Professional Standards will conduct and administrative investigation.

Police said witnesses can call the police department's non-emergency line at 935-3311.

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