MAKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tenari Maafala, State of Hawaii organization of Police Officers (SHOPO) President, said Tuesday's fatal shooting by Honolulu police officers in Makiki was tragic, but justified.
"It's never easy when you take someone's life," he said.
"And then in the moment when it does happen…things just change in milliseconds…milliseconds."
It was a moment like that inside the Makiki apartment complex on Kinau Street around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday when police opened fire on a man with a knife.
Walden Dang, 61, died at the scene.
As his loved ones mourn his loss, the officers involved are dealing with their own trauma.
Maafala knows firsthand what it's like.
"I myself been involved in a shooting back in' 99….and to this day I live with the scar of taking someone's life…it still hurts," said Maafala.
Maafala said it's the worst possible situation for an officer to be in. He said in Tuesday's case, the officers did what they were trained to do…something that isn't easy.
"It's a traumatic situation that affects everybody. And that's something that the public don't normally talk about…what about the officer? It's always...you should have done this, you should have shot the knife out of his hand, you should have shot his...you cannot. On a split second moment…you cannot. You just go by instinct."
Police said the officers' first call to the apartment was to help a suicidal man -- Walden Dang. Dang told officers he was OK, so they left. About forty-five minutes later, Dang called 911 saying someone was trying to kill him. When officers returned, they were met with Dang wielding a large butcher knife. Sources say Dang refused to drop his weapon and told officers, "You're gonna have to shoot me." He lunged at officers with the knife and multiple shots were fired.
"This could be a case of suicide by cop only because the person who calls for help or assistance is now attacking the police or threatening to attack the police with a knife," said Hawaii News Now law enforcement expert Tommy Aiu.
Maafala said it's something officers pray they never have to experience. He said some officers recover from it, others don't.
"I don't second guess what I did. I had to do what I had to do…and that's to protect lives."
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