A 34-year-old man fatally shot by plainclothes officers at a car dealership in Kalihi may not have actually fired his gun at that location.
“At New City Nissan we’re unsure if he was trying to fire, if the gun jammed. We don’t know because we haven’t had a chance to examine the firearm,” Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said at a news conference roughly six hours after the shooting.
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The gunfire occurred in the parking lot in front of the Nissan dealership showroom at 2295 N. King St. Video taken by an employee from inside shows apparent bullet holes in the large glass windows and shattered glass on the floor.
That employee told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser she was not supposed to talk to the media. No one from the dealership would comment on the shooting.
The suspect fired a shot or shots at a different location, but at the Nissan dealership Ballard acknowledged there were people inside the showroom. In the parking lot, she said, “there were not very many people around. Someone was off to the side, not in the line of fire.”
“But once again public safety is our top priority for the safety of the officers, for the safety of the community,” she said.
She justified the shooting by police, saying, “We already knew he tried to shoot and kill the officers previously on North King Street, so the officers are really trained to assess the situation and to stop the threat. That’s what they needed to do is to stop the threat because this individual showed he had a total disregard for the safety of everybody.”
She said she could not say who fired the bullets into the showroom windows or how many lives were endangered.
This was the eighth person shot by Honolulu police this year and the fourth killed, compared with 12 police shootings on Oahu in 2018, six of them fatal.
The events leading up to the shooting began at 10 a.m. in the Sam’s Club parking garage in Pearl City. The 34-year-old was one of two men seated in a vehicle wearing ski masks.
A 911 caller reported what appeared suspicious. Plainclothes Crime Reduction Unit (CRU) officers responded. They identified themselves as police officers and ordered them to get out of their vehicle.
The pair ignored the officers’ orders and rammed into an unmarked police vehicle and headed toward the H-1 freeway, Ballard said.
The CRU officers pursued the vehicle, but ended their pursuit when the driver began driving erratically, and followed the vehicle at a safe distance, Ballard said.
A police helicopter observer spotted the vehicle in Aiea and saw a passenger get out. Officers took him in for questioning but released him without charges.
Ballard said that the first shots were fired at 11 a.m. after the 34-year-old driver abandoned his car near the intersection of North King and Middle streets and fled on foot.
Two CRU officers chased him on foot.
“A short time later he fell to the ground and opened fire on police,” Ballard said. “Fearing for their lives, the officers opened fire, striking the suspect.”
She later clarified that this took place at two different locations.
After they shot the man, officers rendered aid, called an ambulance and performed CPR until paramedics arrived, she said.
Emergency Medical Services responded at 11:10 a.m. and administered advanced life support treatment to a man for an apparent gunshot wound.
He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, Ballard said.
She said multiple shots were fired by both the suspect and the officers, but when pressed, she was unclear whether he fired any shots at the dealership.
“We only know the first time when he fell down, and he started to fire at the officers at that time, that’s the first time that he was firing at the officers,” she said. “That was at North King Street.”
Honolulu police shut down North King and Middle streets near the car dealership for nearly six hours as they investigated.
Some people feared for their lives upon hearing the gunshots and seeing police.
Tony, who declined to give his last name, said he heard multiple gunshots while sitting in his parked car next to a construction and renewable energy company he works at. “I ducked in my car when I heard shots.”
Clarice Casamina, who works across from New City Nissan, was in her office at about 11 a.m. when she heard “pop” sounds she thought possibly came from a blown tire.
She and her colleagues peered through their office front windows and saw plainclothes officers clad in bulletproof vests running about.
Police swiftly cordoned off the street with yellow tape. Soon after, a police officer checked on Casamina and her colleagues and informed them a suspect was apprehended nearby and told them not to go across the street until the investigation was completed.
“It was a very uneasy feeling,” Casamina said. “That’s way too close for comfort.”
Kin Wong, a city fuel facility attendant on the Diamond Head side of the dealership, said, “I heard about four or five shots. I thought somebody was playing fireworks illegally.”
He also saw a helicopter hovering over the area.
Ballard said the information presented Monday was from a preliminary investigation and that the investigation is continuing.
Police opened three first-degree attempted murder cases with multiple firearm charges against the 34-year-old. He was involved in two prior terroristic threatening cases in which a gun was used, Ballard said, and was wanted for federal probation violation. The passenger has seven prior felony convictions.
The four officers involved are assigned to the Pearl City, Kalihi and Kapolei- Waianae stations. They have from six to 23 years of service. She said they will be offered three days of administrative leave, as is standard procedure.