A plainclothes Honolulu police officer seeking to serve a bench warrant Tuesday night in Kalihi shot the man he was looking for after the suspect brandished a gun, Acting Chief Rade Vanic said at a press conference on Wednesday.
The officer shot the man in the torso and the suspect was taken to the hospital in critical condition, Vanic said.
Vanic said the officers reacted in accordance with their training. HPD policy allows the use of deadly force when an officer reasonably believes it is necessary to defend the life of the officer or others in immediate danger.
“He was exiting his vehicle with a gun brandished in his hand and pointing toward the direction of the officer,” Vanic said. “Officers are trained to respond to threats that they perceive or that are presented to them.”
It’s the third police shooting so far this year, following the fatal shootings last month of Iremamber Sykap, 16, and Lindani Myeni, 29.
Vanic opened his remarks by saying the information is preliminary and subject to change as the investigation continues.
“I ask that everyone please remember this is an open and active investigation and that new information is still coming in,” he said.
Tuesday night, District 1 officers received information that a 27-year-old man wanted on two $50,000 warrants was in Kalihi, Vanic said. Officers with the Crime Reduction Unit, or CRU, located the suspect and two passengers sitting in parked Jeep around 11:30 p.m. on Hikina Lane, Vanic said.
Officers, who were wearing bulletproof vests and identifiable police markings on their fronts and back, approached the vehicle and ordered the driver out, Vanic said.
The Jeep drove out of its parking stall, struck four nearby vehicles and the driver “brandished a handgun at officers,” Vanic said.
After the vehicle stopped, the male passenger ran out of the car while the female passenger remained in the backseat, according to Vanic. Officers approached again and ordered the driver to get out of the car, Vanic said.
“As they did, the suspect turned toward the officers, still brandishing the handgun, and one of the officers fired multiple shots, striking the suspect in the upper body,” Vanic said. “Officers removed the suspect from the Jeep and began administering first aid until paramedics arrived.”
The whole incident lasted 30 seconds to a minute, Vanic estimated. It’s not yet clear how many times the man was shot, he said. Whether the suspect actually fired any shots himself is part of the investigation, Vanic said.
No officers were injured. The HPD crime lab is processing the suspect’s handgun as evidence, Vanic said.
The officer who discharged his weapon has 12 years of service with HPD and is assigned to District 1’s Crime Reduction Unit. As in previous police shootings, the department did not name him. Vanic said the officer has been placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure.
The suspect has eight prior convictions, including six felony convictions for robbery, theft and drugs, Vanic said. The two warrants that HPD sought to serve were for charges that include kidnapping, terroristic threatening, abuse of a household member and a firearms offense.
Vanic declined to name the suspect but two HPD sources identified him as Dion Vincent Kitzmiller, 27, whose age and record matches Vanic’s description. The sources asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak for the department.
On Wednesday afternoon, Kitzmiller was charged with attempted murder of a law enforcement officer in the first degree, three counts of property damage, two counts of criminal contempt related to the warrants and two firearm violations, according to the HPD arrest log.
Kitzmiller is Hawaiian, according to the log.
None of the officers involved were wearing body cameras, Vanic said. While officers in all patrol districts and the traffic division now wear them, plainclothes officers do not, Vanic said. The department is considering outfitting plainclothes officers with cameras in the future, he said.
There is surveillance video, however, and HPD is currently reviewing it, Vanic said. But the department has no immediate plans to release it to the public.
It’s not unusual for plainclothes officers to serve warrants, particularly for felonies, according to Vanic. There are “tactical” advantages to sending non-uniformed officers, he said.