Students at some East Honolulu schools found themselves in the middle of Thursday’s carjacking and fatal shooting along Kalanianaole Highway.
Kevin Valenzuela, 14, was among several Kalani High School students walking home or catching the bus who ended up running for their lives.
The Kalani freshman was on the mauka side of Kalanianaole Highway at the traffic light at Ainakoa Street when he saw smoke coming from a compact car on the makai side of the highway.
"I saw two guys jump out, and one of the guys tried to hijack a truck," Valenzuela said. "He had a shotgun and pointed it at the driver of a truck."
When police began to arrive, the man with the gun "decided to jump over the guardrail in the median," he said. "He started running in the direction of the students. … Everyone began running, and I guess everyone was just confused and scared at the moment.
"As we were running away … I heard many gunshots. I was very scared. I didn’t know where the gunshots were coming from or where they were heading … so I just kept running until I got to the intersection of my house."
The 14-year-old said the gunman got as close as 40 to 50 yards from him.
As he was running, Valenzuela glanced back and saw the alleged car thief running with the shotgun.
"I believe I’m very lucky," he said. "He could have shot any of us students. That was the real danger."
Sabrina Chew, 18, who attends a job training program at Kalani, said, "Police, they just shot him — a guy with a bunch of tattoos on his forehead. He had a shotgun."
Chew said at first she was more worried than scared when events began unfolding. "But after he got shot — who would have thought that would happen here in Hawaii? I didn’t think it would happen here. After I saw the gun shooting, that’s when I started feeling shock.
"I actually saw him facing a cop, and one of the cops shot him," Chew said, possibly in the abdomen or the arm. "Then another cop shot him, I’m thinking in the back because I saw a gunshot wound on his back."
Niu Valley Middle School Principal Justin Mew said students reported that while at a city bus stop, they saw a vehicle blazing toward Hawaii Kai that almost ran over them. They said a different car came back traveling on the wrong side on the highway. The driver had a shirt over his head, he said.
One carload of Niu Valley band students saw police draw their weapons, saw the suspect with the shotgun, heard gunshots and ducked, he said.
Because parents were caught in traffic, Mew said, he and some faculty members fed 60 to 70 students, about half with special needs, and stayed with them until the last student was picked up at about 9:06 p.m.