3 accused of helping suspected Big Island cop killer to appear in court
SOUTH POINT, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Charges have been filed Sunday against three people in connection to the manhunt for wanted felon Justin Waiki.
Jorge Pagan-Torres, Malia Lajala and Krystle Ferreira were charged with accomplice to attempted murder in the first degree, hindering prosecution, and criminal conspiracy for their alleged involvement in helping Waiki avoid police.
Pagan-Torres was also charged with two counts of probation violation, and Lajala was also charged with two counts of promoting dangerous drugs in the third degree.
No bail has been set, and all three remain in police custody.
All three face felony charges of hindering prosecution for their role in a second shootout that took place Friday, in which Waiki was killed.
They were allegedly in the SUV where Waiki was hiding under a blanket, gun in hand.
When the vehicle was stopped at a checkpoint in South Point on Friday afternoon, Waiki allegedly jumped out from under the blanket and started shooting.
A sergeant was injured in the melee, and was taken to the Hilo Medical Center in stable condition.
Waiki was killed, while a woman in the SUV sustained a gunshot wound to the leg and a broken femur.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, police said they were continuing to follow up on leads about anyone who may have helped Waiki while he was on the run, "to include transporting him as well as providing him a place to stay."
The shootout was the culmination of an intense, days-long manhunt for Waiki, which involved scores of officers and federal agents, covered much of the Big Island and included several high-speed chases and exchanges of gunfire.
Waiki went on the run Tuesday night, after he allegedly fatally shot Officer Bronson Kaliloa during a traffic stop in Mountain View. The 10-year veteran of the force leaves behind a wife, two sons and a daughter.
"We have been able to bring this nightmare to an end," Big Island Police Chief Paul Ferreira said Friday, in an address to the community. "You can sleep well tonight knowing the search is over for the individual Justin Waiki ... who took the life of Officer Bronson Kaliloa days ago."
Police said the shootout Friday started about 2:45 p.m., when officers stopped a Toyota 4Runner at a South Point checkpoint, which had been set up after police got a tip that Waiki was in the area.
Hawaii Police Department Maj. Robert Wagner told Hawaii News Now that Waiki was "hidden in the very back of the 4Runner, underneath a blanket."
"The officer checked the very back area of that vehicle, opened up that hatch there, and then Waiki actually emerged and shot the officer," Wagner said. "The members of the SRT unit exchanged fire, killing Waiki at that location."
On Saturday, police said Waiki's gun was a 38 revolver. It had been reported stolen from a home in March.
The officer wounded in the shootout has been with the Hawaii Police Department for 12 years. Wagner said he's a patrol sergeant in Puna, but also a member of the Special Response Team.
On Friday afternoon, Kaliloa's family issued this statement: "The family would like to thank all the responders who have put their lives at risk to help bring us closure. Our love and thoughts go to the injured officer and his family and we will pray that the Lord protect and heal him."
The South Point shooting came a day after a wild chase in Honaunau, more than 40 miles away.
That incident all started around 5 p.m. Thursday, when officers got a tip that Waiki was spotted in a gray Toyota pickup in Kailua-Kona. Officers approached the pickup, spotting a man and a woman inside.
That's when the driver, identified as Harvey Damo Jr., allegedly reversed toward an officer, who fired three gunshots at the truck, police said.
The man and woman were able to flee, leading police on a dramatic, hours-long chase. In Honaunau, an officer again exchanged gunfire with the pickup truck, firing 10 shots at the suspects, but they again evaded arrest.
Officers eventually found the truck abandoned in a coffee field.
The two occupants of the truck reportedly fled on foot into lava fields and thick brush, but were captured about 10 p.m. Alongside Damo was 25-year-old Shevylyn Klaus, both residents of Hilo and alleged associates of Waiki. Klaus has since been released pending investigation.
Damo and Klaus have had several previous run-ins with the law, and Damo had been released from prison July 7. Checks of the vehicle they were in showed that it was stolen, Big Island police said.
Damo was treated at the Kona Community Hospital for a non-life-threatening gunshot wound and has been released back into police custody.
In addition to his charge for unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, he was charged Sunday for two counts of first-degree terroristic threatening, resisting order to stop, reckless endangering, fourth-degree theft and fourth-degree criminal property damage.
During the chase, officers fanned out across the area, using K9 teams to try to track down Waiki and a chopper in hopes of catching sight of him. But he was nowhere to be found.
Alayna DeBina, who lives on Napo'opo'o Road, told Hawaii News Now that about 6 p.m. Thursday the pickup with Damo and Klaus inside sped by her home and the driver fired five rounds at pursuing officers.
"It was so scary," she said.
"It was right outside of our house," added her daughter, Kawai. "They were firing at him. He was shooting at the cops!"
John Rosner and his neighbor also had a run-in with the fleeing driver in the truck.
Rosner said the man barreled onto his property, and came within a foot of hitting his vehicle. He and his neighbor confronted him, grabbing rocks in an effort to defend themselves.
"I was face-to-face with him," Rosner said. "He nearly ran me and my neighbor over. He nearly took out my truck. My neighbor nearly ripped him out of the truck, but he got away."
The shootout in Honaunau confirmed for police what they had suspected: Waiki was getting help.
That same day, authorities on the hunt for Waiki said they believed they were getting bogus tips, purposely meant to steer them in the wrong direction.
"We're pretty sure there are people that are assisting him currently," said Big Island Police Maj. Samuel Jelsma. "To these people, and if they're associating with that, that will also affect them as well."
While the manhunt was ongoing, family and friends were also mourning Kaliloa, the officer killed Tuesday.
Ferreira, the Big Island police chief, said Kaliloa transferred to Puna in 2010, and was recognized as "officer of the year" for the district in 2014.
"This has been the worst event in my career," Ferreira said at a news conference Wednesday, holding back tears. "This was an officer, a father, a son, a husband. Put a face to the name."
He added, "We will persevere. We will do what we need to do."
Jelsma, who served as Kaliloa's district commander for eight years, said the officer was a model for the whole department.
"Anybody that met him, whether it be a fellow officer or member of the public, he would come across as being professional," Jelsma said. "His talk, his action. He was a team player."
On Thursday, Kaliloa was honored on the floor of the U.S. House.
"We mourn with the community of Puna, the Hawaii Police Department, and Bronson's ohana that he left behind," U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said, in a short address. "We can never forget the sacrifices our law enforcement officers and their families make every day to serve and protect."
Also Thursday, flags were flown at half staff to honor Kaliloa and a makeshift memorial of flowers had sprung up near the fallen officer memorial in Hilo.
The shooting that left Kaliloa dead happened about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, after officers pulled Waiki over on Highway 11 in Mountain View.
As officers approached the vehicle, Waiki got out and allegedly fired at least five shots, hitting Kaliloa in the neck and leg, officials said. Officers then shot back at Waiki, but he managed to flee on foot.
Ferreira said officers pulled Waiki over because they knew he was wanted, though officials did not say whether they believed he was armed.
Waiki had a no-bail warrant out for his arrest and 16 convictions. Three of those convictions were for felonies, including a firearms charge.
After the shooting, Kaliloa was taken to the Hilo Medical Center, where he underwent surgery. He was pronounced dead just before 1 a.m. On Thursday, Big Island police said an autopsy confirmed Kaliloa died as a result of the gunshot wound to his neck.
Tommy Aiu, HNN law enforcement expert, said the Mountain View shooting underscores just how dangerous it is to be a police officer.
"Nowadays, traffic stops and domestic violence calls are the most dangerous things an officer can become involved in because you never know what you're going to encounter," Aiu said. "It could be a simple ticket turned more deadly or dangerous."
The shooting prompted a heavy police presence in Puna and forced officers to shut down Highway 11.
Witnesses say up to 50 police cars, as well as an armored vehicle, responded to the area.
"I was driving up the road and I seen lights and then I saw a lot of lights and then I pulled over to turn around, but I thought it was a car accident and I'm medically trained so I was going to offer to help," said witness Paul Klink.
"That's when the cop pulled his gun and I realized this obviously isn't a car accident. The cop came running around the car and I think he thought I might have been involved in it or could be. I don't know, but he was pretty assertive about me turning around."
This story will be updated.
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