‘Like a war zone’: Investigators converge on community in wake of fatal shooting, fire
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Investigators are scouring a Diamond Head neighborhood for clues on a “tragic unfolding of events” Sunday that started with a stabbing and ended with the shooting deaths of two Honolulu police officers and a blaze that burnt five homes to the ground.
Meanwhile, police have confirmed that a woman and the 69-year-old suspect ― who was facing eviction ― remain unaccounted for.
A second woman who was unaccounted for has been located and is safe, they said.
Resident Stephany Sofos watched the chaos unfold and said it looked “like a war zone.”
“The shots rang out and everybody moved. It was chaotic,” Sofos said.
In a news conference Sunday afternoon, a visibly shaken Police Chief Susan Ballard identified the officers killed as:
- Officers Tiffany Enriquez, a seven-year veteran of the force;
- and Kaulike Kalama, a nine-year veteran of the force.
As Ballard spoke to reporters, her voice shook with emotion as she fought back tears.
“On behalf of the men and women of the Honolulu Police Department, our deepest condolences go out to the families," she said. “The HPD ohana grieve along with you.”
She added that she knew the officers very well.
“They were like my kids. They were with me for five years at receiving desk when I was major there,” she said. “So when they first came into the department up until I made chief, I knew them personally.”
The rampage rocked a state unaccustomed to violence and left many in disbelief.
“This is a family and people are grieving,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell told reporters.
Ballard identified the suspect as Jerry Hanel, and authorities believe he died when the home he was in went up in flames.
His remains have not yet been located, but Ballard said processing the scene could take days.
Court documents show Hanel has a history of erratic behavior and making false 911 reports. His attorney said he had delusions that he was being tracked by the FBI.
And on Thursday, he had been served with papers instructing him to vacate the Hibiscus Drive property where he lived rent-free.
Ballard said he had no permits to own firearms.
The chaos at the gateway to Hawaii's no. 1 tourist destination all began about 9 a.m. when first responders were called to a home on Hibiscus Drive for a report of a stabbing.
Sources said the suspect’s landlord had been trying to evict him. She’d delivered eviction papers to him earlier in the week, but he’d refused to sign them.
The person who was injured in the stabbing sustained a wound to the leg and was taken to a hospital in serious condition.
When officers arrived on scene, Hanel opened fire on them in his driveway, Ballard said.
Witnesses saw injured officers being dragged into the street. One bystander said rescuers could be seen performing CPR on an officer in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
Bystanders also told HNN that they believed at least one other person on the property was stabbed. Authorities did not immediately have information on the two stabbing victims, but they’re believed to be the landlord and a neighbor — both of whom are unaccounted for at this time.
After ambushing the officers with gunfire, the suspect wasn’t done yet.
He’s accused of setting fire to the home he was in. Those flames spread quickly to several nearby properties as firefighters struggled to gain access to the site amid the active police investigation.
In one video obtained by HNN, desperate residents can be seen using garden hoses to try to douse the flames nearing their homes.
In addition to the five homes that were destroyed ― reduced to all but rubble ― several more sustained significant damage.
The American Red Cross is helping the affected families and an emergency shelter for the victims has been opened at Waikiki Elementary. As of Sunday night, nine people were using the shelter.
“It was just a tragic unfolding of events,” said resident Eric Crispin, who watched first responders rush to the scene from the rooftop of a nearby condominium.
He said as at least 20 police cars responded to the scene, he started to see smoke pouring from a home and called 911.
Within minutes, he said, “the fire just raged and spread."
Earlier in the day, Caldwell called the shooting an “unprecedented tragedy” for Honolulu.
“I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of the two officers as well as the entire Honolulu Police Department," he said.
A police presence remains at the scene, where scores of firefighters were monitoring hotspots throughout Sunday into Monday morning.
When the fires were at their height, flames and thick smoke could be seen for miles.
Even before firefighters arrived, residents were spraying down their roofs hoping the flames would not spread to their homes.
One resident actually climbed onto his roof so he could spray his home with a garden hose.
Residents say the crime scene was even more chaotic.
“The first police car came and subsequently the other police cars arrived and then, this street just became a thoroughfare,” resident Brant Kelsey said.
The two officers fatally shot at the home were initially taken in extremely critical condition to the Queen’s Medical Center.
Dozens of police officers, along with the police chief, were seen arriving at the hospital as the patients were transported from the Diamond Head scene.
The officers who arrived at the hospital were visibly shaken.
Several were crying, and Ballard could be seen hugging those arriving at the emergency room.
Pastor Wayne Surface, of Ohana Baptist Church, said the family of one of the officers killed is a member of his congregation who he’s known them for many years.
“They’re hurt. They’re not sure why this happened. They’re looking to the lord to provide comfort at this time,” he said.
He describes one of the officers who was killed as a “good man.”
“The family has a record of serving the community,” he said.
Witnesses tell HNN that the fires started just moments after gunshots rang out.
In addition to the homes that were damaged, several HPD vehicles were also damaged in the flames.
Bystander Ian Felix said he was in the area when he saw the woman who was stabbed and rushed to her aid. “She was screaming, she was like get me out of here,” Felix said.
“She was really scared of what happened to her because of that person. The escalation went from a stab wound to a fire and then the two officers. It’s really sad."
This story will be updated.
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