Police were looking late Monday for a 38-year-old man who they said stole a police officer’s dark blue 2016 Toyota 4Runner in Kaimuki and led officers on an islandwide chase.
The man was detained and under investigation for theft early Monday morning when he asked officers whether he could take a bathroom break. Instead he got in the 4Runner and drove off with its blue light lit and guns inside.
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said officers, in a compassionate gesture, allowed him to go for a bathroom break.
And go he did.
The man, not handcuffed, jumped into the possibly running SUV, she said. The vehicle contained two HPD-issued firearms.
Ballard said HPD’s policy allows officers to keep their vehicles running when they make stops.
Police said the man has brown hair and brown eyes, is 6 feet tall and weighs 165 pounds. They did not release his name. He was last seen wearing a black T-shirt and black jeans. He has a record of felony and misdemeanor convictions, police said.
Two officers responded to the initial call of a suspicious man in a car at about 6:15 a.m. near the corner of 10th and Maunaloa avenues, and a third officer arrived 15 minutes later.
Yat Lau, a cashier at Foodland Beretania, said he observed the suspect in the stolen police vehicle on South Beretania Street driving around the block.
The suspect drove onto the sidewalk and allegedly struck a Love’s Bakery delivery truck near the grocery store.
Ballard said the officer whose 4Runner was stolen fired a single round at the suspect near the Foodland, possibly injuring him in the left shoulder.
The suspect allegedly struck the officer with his own 4Runner. The officer was treated at the hospital with shoulder and possible knee injuries.
Ballard said the shooting and the injury to the officer possibly occurred simultaneously, and remain under investigation.
The perpetrator continued to flee and led police on a chase, but they lost sight of him.
Police said they later received a confirmed sighting of the suspect from officers in Waialua.
A police chase in Haleiwa was cut short by a commander who told officers to turn off their lights, feeling there may have been some danger to the public as school was starting, Ballard said.
“We didn’t want to put anyone at risk, because it was getting to be heavy traffic at the time,” Ballard said, adding they continued to follow the vehicle.
At about 8:20 a.m. the suspect ditched the vehicle on Waiahole Homestead Road in Waikane and fled into the bushes on foot.
Police recovered the police vehicle, which sustained driver’s-side damage. The weapons and other police equipment inside were recovered.
Waiahole Elementary School initiated a lockdown at about 8:30 a.m. as officers scoured the area in search of the suspect.
HPD’s Specialized Services Division assisted in the search, along with a K-9 unit, Crime Reduction Unit and helicopter.
The suspect is wanted for first-degree attempted murder, first-degree theft and unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle.
Resident Justeen Castillo of Waiahole Valley Road said she heard police sirens blaring in her neighborhood and saw a police helicopter after dropping off her children at Waiahole Elementary.
A police officer right outside her home told her to “stay inside and lock the doors” because the suspect was still at large.
Police allowed her to pick up her aunt, who lives near the area where the suspect ditched the police vehicle.
“She’s handicapped” and lives alone, Castillo said. “I didn’t know if the suspect was armed or not. I went and I grabbed her, and I brought her back to my place so she’s with the rest of the family.”
On her way back home, police stopped and searched her vehicle and other vehicles for the suspect.
Police scaled back their search in Waiahole at about 4 p.m.
The officer, with 24 years at HPD, who fired his weapon has been placed on administrative leave as is standard procedure.
Anyone with information on the suspect is asked to call 911.