An off-duty police officer shot and fatally wounded a man on Kamehameha Highway behind Waimalu Shopping Center yesterday after an apparent robbery.
The shooting death is the third since Feb. 22 in which a fleeing armed suspect has been killed by police. Yesterday the man, who was in his 30s, was taken to a hospital after sustaining a gunshot wound in his right clavicle. He died at a hospital, police said.
Witnesses said the chase stemmed from a robbery in a second-floor establishment at the Ewa end of the shopping center, which is across from Best Buy and a third of a mile west of Pearlridge Center.
The incident began at about 3:20 p.m. when the officer, who was working a special-duty shift directing traffic at a construction project near Hekaha Street and Kamehameha Highway, responded to a call for help, Police Chief Louis Kealoha said at a news conference at department headquarters.
The officer “heard a commotion and somebody calling for help,” Kealoha said. “The officer chased the male suspect to the back of the shopping center where the suspect waved a gun and then pointed it at the officer. The officer repeatedly ordered the male to put the gun down, but the suspect refused. The officer fired multiple times, striking the suspect.”
No one else was injured, Kealoha said, and other details are still being reviewed, including the identity of the man killed.
Police are also looking at the possibility that the incident began at a massage business in the busy shopping center known for its wide array of restaurants.
According to witnesses, the incident began at Pukana La Massage Therapy.
The owner of the nearby Sukie’s Skin Care, who only gave her first name, Sukie, said she heard from the owner of Pukana La Massage Therapy that a customer pulled out a handgun and demanded money after receiving a massage. He took cash, then ran out while being chased by the owner from the Ewa end of the shopping center toward the Diamond Head end.
A woman answering the phone at the massage business last night declined comment.
Hieu Bui, 22, had just finished eating at a restaurant at the center when he was approached by a woman from Club Colorful, located downstairs from the massage business, who urged him to catch the fleeing man. Bui said he chased the man through the parking lot, leaving behind his dog, until he noticed the man was carrying a handgun.
He stopped chasing the man and stood several feet behind a patrol officer who happened to be at the scene directing traffic, Bui said. The gunman continued to wave the gun in the air and pointed at Bui and the officer. Bui said he went back for his dog and did not see what happened next.
A man named Randy, who declined to give his full name but identified himself as a co-owner of Waimalu Chop Suey, said he looked out his back door into the alley and saw a shirtless man waving a gun in the air, walking briskly in the Ewa direction.
The officer had his gun drawn, pointing toward the ground, he said. When the gunmen leveled his gun and waved it at the officer, Randy went back inside to get out of the way, he said. He heard two pops, looked back outside and saw the suspect on the ground about 50 yards west of his restaurant.
Juju Yee, a shopping center security guard, said a man who found a purse and shoes on the sidewalk fronting the massage business told him there had been a robbery. Yee said he went upstairs to check and found an unspent bullet on the stairwell and the doors of the business already locked.
He walked to an emergency exit on the second floor and saw a gunman yelling and an officer, who was wearing an orange vest, shout three times at the man to drop his weapon. The man started to lower the weapon toward the officer when the officer shot him in the torso twice, he said.
He said the officer had little choice but to shoot. “You can’t tell what else the man was up to,” he said.
Susan Scott, owner of Ezogiku Sapporo Ramen in the strip mall, spoke to her friend Sunhy Ahmed, the massage business owner, after the shooting.
“She’s hysterical and crying,” Scott said. “She felt really bad that the guy had died.”
Police have not yet concluded whether the suspect fired his weapon, said Maj. Richard Robinson, head of HPD’s Criminal Investigations Division.
It is also unknown how many times the suspect was hit by bullets, Kealoha said, although paramedics reported the man sustained one gunshot wound. A handgun was recovered at the scene.
The officer who fired his weapon is a 19-year veteran assigned to the Waikiki patrol district, Kealoha said. He was put on administrative leave, and an internal investigation has begun, which is standard procedure, he said. The incident was over within minutes, Kealoha said.
“If the officer sees a gun pointed at him or her, the response will respond … and draw his or her firearm,” he said. Officers are trained to shoot toward “center mass … right in the torso area.”
Kealoha pointed out it was the third time a suspect had been shot and killed by police recently. In all three instances the suspects were armed with a gun.
On Feb. 22, Michael Kahana Davis was shot at an office space at the Surf Line Hawaii factory on Kalihi Street. Police said they chased a man across the street from the scene of an apparent auto theft. In that case, officers both fired at least one shot. Davis, who was hit in the head, died two days later.
On April 14, Mark Ahnee was shot and killed while fleeing from police on Ainakoa Avenue. Police said Ahnee was one of two men who stole several cars before police caught up with them on Kalanianaole Highway. Ahnee aimed a shotgun toward police when he was shot twice in the torso, police said.
All three shootings occurred during daylight hours. “If somebody comes out with a weapon … and threatens anybody, our officers are ready and prepared to take action and protect the community,” Kealoha said.
Muhammed Lo, owner of Cultural Vibes, a hip-hop and Rasta-themed clothing and music store at the Waimalu center, said that police are at the strip mall regularly responding to calls from burglaries to purse snatchings and outdoor drinking.
All the criminal activity discourages customers from coming into the shopping center and is bad for business, he said.
“This is crazy. I’m here for three years but it’s still the same trouble,” Lo said.