EXCLUSIVE: HPD officers erred in not arresting men for major ill - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: HPD officers erred in not arresting men for major illegal fireworks bust

Officers confiscated 2,200 pounds of fireworks in Waipahu last week. Image Source: Honolulu Police Department Officers confiscated 2,200 pounds of fireworks in Waipahu last week. Image Source: Honolulu Police Department
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WAIPAHU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The Honolulu Police Department said its undercover officers made a mistake when they failed to immediately arrest two men who were stopped with more than a ton of illegal fireworks in their vehicle just two days before New Year's.

And Hawaii News Now has learned one of the men is a convicted drug dealer who was on federal probation at the time of last week's fireworks incident.

Sources said Crimestoppers received a tip that a large amount of illegal fireworks could be found at a home on Kahualena Street in Waipahu last week, so undercover HPD officers watched the home and saw two men loading large boxes into a van there on December 30.

The officers followed the vehicle down Kahualena Street and saw it run a stop sign, so they pulled the van over, sources said. That’s when the officers found the driver didn't have a driver's license. When the men gave the officers permission to search the van, they found 2,200 pounds of illegal fireworks, which HPD seized.

"Two males with the 2,000 pounds initially were cited. A felony case was made, so that still is pending investigation," said HPD Assistant Chief Alan Bleumke on Monday.

HPD confirmed the driver and his passenger, Cenon Polintan, 41, were only cited for the fireworks violations, the equivalent of getting a speeding ticket instead of being arrested and booked on felony fireworks charges, which apply to anyone who has possession of, sells, buys or uses more than 25 pounds of illegal pyrotechnics.

HPD released a statement that said, “In review of the case, the two male suspects should have been arrested instead of cited. However, the case has been forwarded to the Criminal Investigation Division for possible felony charges.”

The police department confiscated the illegal fireworks in the case.

Former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, who was city prosecutor for 14 years before taking the helm at Honolulu Hale, said HPD’s handling of the case raises red flags.

"It appears to me that there's more than probable cause to believe that there's a felony occurring. There are multiple actions that are occurring that have been detrimental to the community, so why was he not arrested then and there?"

Polintan has been on supervised release since February 2103 after he spent years in federal prison following a crystal meth and cocaine dealing conviction from a 2006 indictment. Last year, records show he spent 14 weekends at the federal detention center in Honolulu for breaking parole conditions, because he was found with gambling records and hung out with a felon.

The day after the big fireworks bust last week, on New Years Eve, sources said Polintan's federal probation officer went to his Hula Street home in Waipahu where the officer found 70 pounds of firecrackers in the trunk of Polintan's vehicle. Only then did HPD arrest him on suspicion of importing, selling or storing fireworks without a permit.

"You've given this guy a green light by not arresting him the day before. So he has no reason to think that he can't get away with it again," Carlisle said.

It’s an embarrassing error, HPD sources said, since experienced, elite officers from the Waipahu Crime Reduction unit confiscated that huge load of fireworks without an immediate arrest.

“This shows a lack of training, bad management or just a total screw up by the officers,” said a veteran officer who was familiar with what happened.

The error happened just a day after Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell gave this warning at a news conference: "If you have these things. You can be arrested. Class C felony. This is serious stuff folks. This is not like a slap on the wrist. You can go to jail."

A class C felony is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

The 2,200-pound fireworks bust accounted for most of the 2,884 pounds of illegal fireworks the police department recovered from Dec. 1, 2015 to Jan. 2.

The number of fireworks complaints this holiday season more than doubled to more than 2,800, HPD said. The department issued 151 fireworks citations this year, more than two and a half times the 62 and 60 citations that were issued in 2014 and 2013 respectively. HPD arrested five people -- two adults and three juveniles -- for fireworks violations this year compared to no arrests the last two years.

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