POSTED: 05:38 a.m. HST, Sep 14, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 12:02 a.m. HST, Sep 15, 2011
A Honolulu police officer was killed and another officer was injured Tuesday night when a pickup truck ran into them during a traffic stop on Farrington Highway near Honokai Hale.
A 45-year-old police officer, identifed as Eric Fontes, was taken in “extremely critical condition,” to Pali Momi Medical Center, where he died, according to police and paramedics. Fontes was a Makakilo resident who was assigned to the Kapolei police substation, other officers said.
Fontes is originally from Molokai and is married with two step-children. He was named most inspirational in his February 2005 HPD recruit class, said an officer who did not want to be identified.
“He was a really nice guy,’” a recruit class colleague said. “He always picked us up. He always had words of encouragement ... positive energy. He’s going to be missed.”
The injured officer, 55, is in stable condition with leg and other injuries at the Queen’s Medical Center.
Police Chief Louis Kealoha Jr. identified him as Herman “Sam” Scanlan, who also worked at the Kapolei station and is a 14-year veteran of the force.
Police said Scanlan stopped a 1997 tan Jeep Cherokee with an expired vehicle registration decal in the left Waianae-bound lane of Farrington Highway just before the Ko Olina offramp at 10:30 p.m. Four other police officers responded to assist in the traffic stop, and their cars’ blue lights were flashing, Kealoha said.
A 2003 tan Toyota pickup truck, driven by a 20-year-old Waianae man, hit Fontes in the grass area between the concrete divider and the vehicles, which were parked in a line. Three other officers were able to jump out of the way, Kealoha said.
The truck then hit an unmarked 2000 green Dodge Durango SUV, pushing it until it hit Scanlan, who was also on the grassy median, police said. Traffic investigators said Fontes was hit in the back by the suspect’s vehicle, which then hit the two police cars and Scanlan.
Officers arrested the truck driver at the scene for investigation of negligent homicide and negligent injuries. The suspect has no prior criminal record. Alcohol is not a factor, but speeding and drug use may be factors in the accident, traffic investigators said. The suspect is a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, a spokesman said. But the spokesman could not say whether the man is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan.
The driver of the Jeep Cherokee, a 49-year-old man from Kapolei, and his passengers — a 46-year-old woman, a 27-year-old woman and a 2-year-old boy — were not injured. Police closed all Waianae-bound lanes of the highway at the Makakilo H-1 Freeway offramp at about 11 p.m. while they investigated the accident.
The lanes were reopened just before 1 a.m. It was the 41st traffic fatality on Oahu this year, compared with 40 at the same time last year. Fontes is the 43rd Honolulu police officer killed in the line of duty.
“This tragedy highlights the dangers our officers face every day, and the stress their families must endure,”?Kealoha told reporters at HPD headquarters this afternoon. “This incident has shattered many lives. We ask that everyone remember these officers and their families in our thoughts and prayers.”
Kealoha also urged motorists to “please drive carefully to help prevent senseless tragedies like this from occurring again in the future.”
The last Honolulu police officer killed was Harry Coelho, a 20-year veteran who died while trying to break up a fight at Haleiwa Beach Park on May 20, 2007. He was 48.
Police said Coelho was off-duty and at the beach with his family when he had a heart attack while trying to subdue two men who were fighting.
Fontes’ name has already been added to the Wall of Honor on the HPD website, which lists police officers killed in the line of duty.
“Eric was a fine man and officer, I know this because I was one of his instructors in the academy,” Nancy De Foster wrote on the website. “Another honorable life taken too soon. Please keep his family in your prayers and also pray for our brother officer who is still in critical condition.”
Roberto “Robzs” Acoba, operations manager of Side Street Inn in Kapahulu, said Fontes was “a natural leader” at Molokai High School. Acoba described the 1985 graduate as “great family man.”
“We’re all like family on Molokai because it is such a small island. This really hits home,” Acoba said.
Kenneth Younce, whose mother is Fontes’ cousin, said “Uncle Eric” was his only blood relative on the island.
“He always took care of me over here, anytime I had any problems I could call him and he would help me out,” Younce said. “He was a good person who was always there for everybody.”
Younce, a 33-year-old Waianae resident, said Fontes was an inspiration to him and urged him to act more responsibly when he became a father.
Younce said Fontes was a spiritual man and wanted to be an HPD chaplain.