EXCLUSIVE: HPD chief denies special treatment
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When someone stole Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha's mailbox in Kahala last year, the HPD turned to its crime reduction unit to make the arrest.
What's raising questions is that the department sent at least six officers for what appears to be a minor crime and that the man arrested is an uncle of the chief's wife, who's involved in a financial dispute with her.
"I know what it looks like but there's no preferential treatment," said Kealoha, who spoke with Hawaii News Now on Thursday.
Kealoha said he didn't direct staff and officers working on the case but put everything in the hands of a Deputy Chief.
"This is unique in the sense that you could say the Chief of Police is a high profile public official," he said.
"We've expended this kind of resources for legislators, judges, prosecutors. We've done it in the past."
But defense attorneys said it's highly unusual to assign the members of a unit that are often used to track down bank robbers and home invasion suspects.
"I would submit that it's a little excessive and might amount to an abuse of discretion on his part to assign an entire squad of (crime reduction unit) members," said defense attorney Myles Breiner.
"This is not a violent crime. I understand the person they are investigating doesn't have a history of violence."
Gerard Puana, 54, was arrested on June 29, 2013 at the Saints Peter and Paul Church on Kaheka Street and spent two days in jail. He faces federal charges for allegedly destroying a mailbox, a crime that's punishable by up to three years in prison.
Puana has sued Kealoha's wife Katherine, accusing her of defrauding him and his mother after she helped set up a reverse mortgage for them. That case remains pending.
The criminal case is scheduled to go to trial in December.
Puana was arrested after Katherine Kealoha viewed a video taken by a security camera shortly before midnight on June 13, 2013.
A 15-second, black-and-white clip shows a late-model Acura sedan driving up to the Kealoha's home on Kealaolu Avenue.
Hawaii News Now reviewed that video, which shows a man wearing shorts and a hat getting out of the Acura to lift the mailbox off of its foundation. He then places it in his car.
It's difficult to make out the man's face but the Kealohas insist that it's Puana. Puana's attorney's say it's not their client.
According to Kealoha, the incident was the sixth time in a year that his home was vandalized. In one instance, someone shot out the windows with a BB gun and in an other, a door was shattered.
Someone destroyed one of his doors with a BB gun while his wife and daughter were still home, the chief said.
Kealoha said he's not sure who committed the previous incidents, so that's why the security cameras were installed.
"When I was traveling, some people would throw rocks at the house," said Kealoha, whose family no longer lives in that Kahala home.
"I said this time, I cannot stay silent and I have to do something about it."