Sources: Gun scare in Waikiki may have stemmed from drug deal

Sources say he was arguing with a known drug dealer next to one of the pavilions before the madness broke out.
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 4:32 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 8, 2022 at 5:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The suspected gunman who sent beachgoers into a panic Sunday in Waikiki may have been involved in a drug deal just moments before, according to witnesses and police sources.

Law enforcement sources have identified the suspect as James Spivey, 27.

Video captured him running across Kalakaua Avenue about 4:30 p.m., after he reportedly brandished a firearm on the beach. He was subsequently tackled to the ground by police and taken into custody.

A woman visiting from the mainland was the first to notice something wasn’t right.

“When he took the gun out I was just waiting for gunshots,” she said.

Suspect accused of brandishing a firearm triggers ‘pandemonium’ on crowded Waikiki beach

The witness, who asked to remain anonymous, told HNN just minutes prior to all the chaos she was relaxing on the beach with her family ― within earshot of the suspect.

Sources say he was arguing with a known drug dealer next to one of the pavilions.

“They were just cussing at each other,” the woman told HNN.

“The gentleman wearing the black beanie was wearing a black backpack. He took it off. He put it in front of him. I just heard him saying, ‘I’m just so tired of you disrespecting me.’”

She says she saw the suspect put his hand into the backpack.

“I saw him just pulling the gun. Not fully. But just holding the handle,” she said. “And I was just worried that if he, you know, shoots the guy and misses that I was going to take that bullet.”

That’s when she got her family out of there and told a lifeguard what she saw.

She says police were there almost immediately.

When officers confronted the suspect the witness said he started to run.

“And then he pulled the gun out,” she said.

Bystanders captured video that shows Spivey open the door of a squad car while yelling at police to shoot him. He could then be seen lunging at an officer, swinging at his face.

Police took the suspect to the ground without any bystanders getting hurt.

Meanwhile, crowds of people rushed to take cover on the beach.

Robert Finley, chair of Waikiki’s Neighborhood Board, said the incident underscores the crime problem in Hawaii’s no. 1 tourist destination.

“It’s not getting better,” he said.

He added that not enough is being done to address the drugs, violence and homelessness in the tourist district, especially near the pavilions.

“We need to get our homeless with needs off the streets and into treatment,” Finley said. “We need to get our criminals off the street and into jail.”

He says the board has been in contact with the city Prosecutor’s Office, saying it’s in favor of imposing geographic restrictions on people who break the law.

“Put these people on probation at least. Tell them they can’t come back to Waikiki for three to six months. The law is already on the books,” Finley said.

According to court documents Spivey, doesn’t have a criminal record in Hawaii but has recently been cited for camping at Kapiolani Park.

Once at the hospital, the suspect was said to be going in and out of consciousness. Sources told HNN he admitted to taking pills with fentanyl.

Fortunately, no bystanders were hurt Sunday and experts say that’s largely due to a swift and effective response by HPD.

Retired HPD deputy Chief John McCarthy says the officers perfectly utilized de-escalation training techniques showing the proper restraint.

“What was amazing when I saw the video was all of the officers were in sync,” McCarthy said. “They were all on the same page. You didn’t have one doing something else and one going another way. They all seemed to be concentrating on the same goal, acting in unison and that was impressive.”

Retired HPD deputy Chief John McCarthy says the officers perfectly utilized de-escalation training techniques showing the proper restraint.

McCarthy spent years working in Waikiki and says at any given time, there are typically eight to 12 officers on patrol.

In this instance, responding police excelled at defusing a dangerous situation.

“The nightmare scene is Waikiki because it’s the most densely populated area on the island and you can just cause panic so simply,” McCarthy explained. “I’ve seen it caused with social media threats and people get scared, but here you’ve got actual threats.”

Going forward, McCarthy says this will likely be used as a training tool for keeping potentially lethal situations contained.

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