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Death of Hawaii island man while in police custody under investigation

The death of a 29-year-old Big Island man while in Hawaii County Police Department custody on Saturday is under investigation.

Police said the man became unresponsive while in custody following his involvement in an altercation at a residence, where a firearm was discharged before officers arrived.

The man’s name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Police also have initiated a coroner’s inquest investigation in connection with his death. An autopsy has been ordered to determine the exact cause of death.

The police department’s Area II Criminal Investigations Section will conduct an investigation into the death and the circumstances leading to it, and the Office of Professional Standards will conduct an administrative investigation, according to the police department.

Kau patrol officers received a series of reports on Saturday that appeared to connect the man to incidents ranging from reckless driving to fleeing the scene of an accident, car break-in, property damage and assault.

Police received the first report that allegedly involved the now deceased man about 11:20 a.m. The report was of a reckless driver operating a maroon colored Scion. Kau officers attempted to find the vehicle, but were initially unsuccessful.

Police received another report involving the Scion about 11:57 a.m. after it was reportedly involved in a traffic accident on Highway 11 in South Kona. The driver of the vehicle, who was reportedly responsible for the accident, fled the scene northbound on Highway 11.

The vehicle was sighted again at 12:05 p.m. when a witness reported a maroon colored Scion on the northbound shoulder of Highway 11. The witness said that the male driver exited the vehicle and walked onto a property.

Shortly after that sighting, emergency dispatch received a call that a man was attempting to break into a vehicle on the property, where the previous witness had reportedly seen the driver.

According to the police report, the man allegedly began damaging a residence on the property after homeowners confronted him.

Police said more conflict ensued when a nearby relative of the residents arrived to help them.

“Upon contact with the male party a confrontation ensued in which a firearm was discharged. No injuries were reported in relation to the discharge,” the police report said. “The confrontation then escalated into an assault where the male party was reported to be the aggressor.”

Police arrived on the scene at about 12:27 p.m. to find that the man had been restrained by passers-by, who had observed the relative being assaulted.

When officers took the man into custody, he was unresponsive. Police said officers at the scene immediately began performing CPR until Hawaii Fire Department personnel arrived. HFD personnel were unable to revive man and he was transported to Kona Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m.

The relative of the residents, who had intervened in the incident, also was transported to Kona Community Hospital where he was treated and later transferred to Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu in critical condition.

Police are asking anyone with information on the incident to contact Detective Donovan Kohara at (808) 326-4646, extension 238, or via email at donovan.kohara@hawaiicounty.gov. Tipsters may also call the police department’s non-emergency number at (808) 935-3311.

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