One week after a fire and shooting in a quiet Diamond Head neighborhood left four people dead, including two Honolulu police officers, numerous onlookers visited the street, some to pay respects and others to get a glimpse of the destruction.
Some residents who lost their homes picked through the blackened ruins; others helped place cat food out in the hopes of finding two cats that disappeared in the fire.
At least one couple who lost everything said they would rebuild and not let the shooter triumph.
“You go through waves,” said Ellen Freeman, who lived next door to the shooter and whose home was one of five destroyed by the fire. “We’re starting to make positive progress.”
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She was working with her insurance company and tackling the process of starting the demolition of her home so she can rebuild. Before the fire her home, built in about 1925, stood behind a white fence with an emblem showing it was on the state’s historic register. Freeman said she grew up in the home.
“I don’t want to be anywhere else,” she said. “I want to be right here, and I don’t want this sick individual, who took so much from us, to win.”
“More than anything, I want my life back,” she said. “It’s a huge relief that he’s gone.”
She added that people have been kind and supportive and that strangers have come up and given her hugs.
She said it was a relief to know that she and her husband, Russel, can rebuild their lives from the ashes of their home rather than having to live next door to the shooter, Jerry “Jarda” Hanel.
For years Hanel had terrorized the Freemans along with other neighbors, four of whom had temporary restraining orders (TROs) against him.
On Jan. 19 Hanel allegedly beat his landlord, Lois Cain, who was trying to evict him, before attacking and injuring another tenant of the home, Gisela Ricardi King, with a garden hoe when she intervened. Freeman showed up after hearing screaming and called out to Hanel, who threw down the hoe and continued punching King.
Police said Hanel fatally shot Honolulu police officers Tiffany Enriquez, 38, and Kaulike Kalama, 34, after they responded to the incident. Soon after, a fire erupted and spread quickly as firefighters were kept at bay, by some accounts for about an hour, first by the potential presence of a shooter, then by exploding ammunition set off by the fire.
Two sets of human remains were later found in the ruins of Cain’s home. The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office identified both, but released only Lois Cain’s identity. The other name was withheld pending the notification of next of kin, although the remains are believed to belong to Hanel.
On Sunday, Russel Freeman, who was staying with a friend in the neighborhood, suspected Hanel had set up Cain’s home with an accelerant to burn quickly and was planning the destruction. He said Cain had visited his home the night before the fire and was wondering what would happen next after she served Hanel with an eviction notice. Cain said she wasn’t scared of Hanel, but suspected “he has something up his sleeve,” Freeman said.
Hanel was set to appear in court the Tuesday after the fire for a charge of misuse of 911, and Freeman suspected the court date may have triggered Hanel’s actions. He said Hanel, who would accost tourists on the street in an aggressive manner, was smiling the days before the fire.
Freeman said he constantly feared Hanel because of Hanel’s mental instability and worried that Hanel would set fire to his home. He said he kept fuel for his lawnmower locked up so Hanel could not use it to start a blaze and, just a week before the fire, worried that Hanel might use some dead branches Freeman pruned from a tree to start a fire.
“Our life was hell,” said Freeman. “He plagued us for five years.”
He said he tried to get a TRO against Hanel but was not successful.
On Sunday afternoon a convoy of motorcyclists organized by the brother of slain officer Kalama drove down the road with flags adorned with a blue line.
Alexis Friedman of Hawaii Kai walked onto the road after walking from Kaimuki where she parked to allow herself time to reflect before reaching Hibiscus Drive. A Department of Education employee who works with special-needs children, she said the tragedy had caused her to think more carefully about her job and mental illness and brought out a stronger sense of purpose in her work.
“I can start (teaching kids) at a younger age to try to help them cope with challenges, especially at school,” she said.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell showed up to survey the damage after returning the night before from a trip to Washington, D.C. He said city officials would meet this week to work on helping to expedite permitting so that residents could return and “restore their lives.” He said the city would like to meet with residents at a later time to see what they need and how the city can help.
“In a case like this, we’d give extra effort to the homeowners to help them, both in getting their demolition permits and other permits to clear and, of course, getting permits to rebuild,” he said.