Two years after it was created by the Legislature, the state’s police fatalities board has released the findings in its first case to the public.

The board unanimously recommended against prosecuting three Big Island police officers who in July 2018 shot and killed a murder suspect after he fired at them while hiding underneath a blanket in the bed of a pickup truck.

The officers were part of a team working a checkpoint and screening vehicles for Justin Waiki, who was suspected in the murder of Hawaii County police officer Bronson Kaliloa.

The Law Enforcement Officer Independent Review Board, which reviews police actions resulting in fatalities and makes recommendations to state prosecutors, decided at a public meeting last month to release the recommendation in its entirety. The report was dated March 19, 2019 — nearly one year ago.

The report details the events surrounding the officer-involved shooting and discusses the basis for the board’s decision to recommend against prosecution.

The board, created in 2017, had been hung up about whether and under what circumstances its recommendations and the investigative materials it used should be made public.

Brian Black, the executive director of The Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest, said it’s a good thing that the board is now doing what the Legislature intended it to do.

“The idea was that the public would have some understanding of why it is that police officers are not being prosecuted for officer-involved shootings,” he said.

police shooting Law Enforcement Officer Independent Review Board meeting.
The Law Enforcement Officer Independent Review Board recently released its first report and recommendation since it was created by the Legislature nearly two years ago. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers has opposed public disclosure of the recommendations.

“If they can do it without releasing the officers’ names, then that’s fine,” said Malcolm Lutu, the organization’s president.

But when it’s just an investigation and the officers were not found to be at fault, their names should not be released, he said, “that’s wrong.”

The report does include the names of the four officers involved in the Waiki case.

Board Decides Shooting Was Justified

Waiki was being sought by the police officers in connection with the murder of another county police officer, according to the narrative included in the board’s recommendation.

Hawaii County police set up a vehicle checkpoint to search for Waiki, who was a fugitive at that point, the report said. Waiki was hiding underneath a blanket in the bed of a Toyota 4Runner and fired two shots at officers, one of which struck Sgt. Bryan Tina in the upper right chest.

Officer Kevin Brodie returned fire and shot into the blanket, according to the report. Two other officers, Patrick Aurello and Wayne Kennison, also fired into the truck, the report said.

Waiki’s body, still covered in the blanket, rolled out of the back of the car.

“Retreat was not a viable option because Waiki was armed with a firearm, had fired two shots, and was in close proximity to all police officers,” the board wrote in its recommendation.

A woman hiding under the blanket with Waiki was also shot in the leg.

Police recovered what turned out to be a stolen pistol from under the blanket.

Read the board’s report:

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