Two Honolulu police officers shot and killed a man in Kalihi on Wednesday after he allegedly cut off another man’s finger and rushed at officers with a machete, according to Interim Police Chief Rade Vanic.

At about 2:30 a.m., officers were dispatched to a parking lot on School Street after a man had been slashed in the hand, Vanic said during a Wednesday press conference at Honolulu Police Department headquarters.

Honolulu Police Department officer stands fronting crime scene vehicle after police shot and killed a person at 1325 School Street early this morning.
Honolulu police officers were on the scene of the shooting on Wednesday morning. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

At the scene, a female witness identified a suspect, Vanic said. The man was armed with a machete, Vanic said, and as officers approached him, the man ignored the officer’s commands, walked to a parked car and opened the driver’s side door.

“Officers again ordered the suspect to drop the machete, but he did not,” Vanic said.

Instead, the suspect moved toward the nearest officer, who was in front of the parked car, as officers continued to yell at him to drop the weapon. As the officer was attempting to distance himself from the suspect, the suspect raised the machete over his head and rushed towards the officer.” 

Two officers fired their guns multiple times, and the suspect fell to the ground, Vanic said. He was transported to the hospital in critical condition but died at the hospital, Vanic said. He was 41.

This is the third fatal shooting by Honolulu police officers this year.

Vanic did not release the name of the suspect. The chief said he had a prior criminal conviction but didn’t say what it was.

Honolulu Police Department Interim Chief Rade Vanic delivered a statement and took questions about the shooting on Wednesday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

The man who suffered the hand injury was treated at the scene and transported to the hospital in serious condition, Vanic said.

The police department has opened a first-degree attempted murder investigation and said “additional charges are pending,” although he didn’t specify who would be charged.

The two officers who discharged their weapons have six and 20 years of service with HPD and are assigned to District 5, Kalihi. They will both be put on administrative leave, as is standard.

Vanic said the officers were on the scene for about 10 minutes before shots were fired, and the interaction with the suspect lasted about 30 seconds.

The shooting was captured on body camera footage, which Vanic said won’t be released now because the incident is under investigation. There is additional surveillance camera footage, Vanic said.

He said he watched footage from one of the cameras but was not sure whether all officers had turned their cameras on.

Vanic said he didn’t know what started the altercation between the suspect and the man whose hand he allegedly cut. He did say the incident occurred near a known game room but any possible connection is part of the investigation.

“It’s my understanding it occurred outside, not in the game room,” Vanic said.

None of the officers involved in the shooting were injured. One fell during the incident, Vanic said, but is OK.

Officers Will Be Investigated

Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm has pledged to independently investigate all fatal shootings by Honolulu police.

Asked about Wednesday’s shooting on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight” program, Alm reiterated that promise.

Prosecutor Steven Alm speaks to media about his plans for the first 100 days of office.
Prosecutor Steven Alm said it’s important for his office to investigate police shootings. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

He said ideally a separate government agency staffed with homicide investigators could do this work. In the absence of that, he said the prosecutor’s office can conduct a more independent investigation than HPD could. HPD still conducts its own criminal and administrative investigations.

Since taking office in January, Alm has already investigated two incidents: the April shootings of Iremamber Sykap, 16, and Lindani Myeni, 29.

Alm determined officers were justified in shooting Myeni, who physically attacked them outside of a Nuuanu home. In the prior case, Alm’s office filed criminal charges against the three officers who shot into Sykap’s car, killing Sykap and injuring his brother.

While a grand jury declined to indict those officers, Alm is nonetheless pursuing charges through a preliminary hearing process in which a judge will determine whether there is probable cause to proceed to a trial. That preliminary hearing process began last month and will continue next week.

The decision to charge the officers was a very unpopular one with the police union and its supporters, who have demonstrated outside the courthouse during the proceedings. On Wednesday, Alm acknowledged that pushback but said it won’t deter him from doing his job.

“I know I’ve gotten criticism, but this is what accountability looks like,” he said. “In other cases, if we don’t think it was a justifiable use of force, we’re going to bring charges.” 

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