The death of a sailor of a self-inflicted gunshot after a barricade situation at the The Kahala Hotel & Resort was the third tied to Hawaii’s submarine force in the past 16 months.
The Navy confirmed that the sailor was assigned to the Pacific Fleet submarine force. However, they did not release the sailor’s identity, military assignment or rank.
The incident began before 6 p.m. Saturday when the 40-year-old man barricaded himself in a room at the hotel and communicated with family that he was suicidal, according to the Honolulu Police Department’s Criminal Investigative Division.
Dozens of law enforcement officers, including HPD’s Specialized Services Division, negotiators and military representatives responded.
During the incident, the man allegedly fired shots into the door of his fourth-floor room at the luxury resort.
No one was injured, but the hotel was put on lockdown, with more than 100 guests kept in a secure location. After more than seven hours, guests and staff were finally released.
The barricade situation ended around 3 a.m. Sunday when police made their entry into the room and found the man dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
This latest sailor death comes as suicide rates in the military nationwide have been a growing concern. The suicide rate among active duty increased to a six-year high in 2019, according to data in a Department of Defense Annual Suicide Report released Oct. 1.
Some 498 troops died by suicide in 2019, bringing the rate among active-duty troops to 25.9 per 100,000.
As recently as March 15 in Hawaii, a 23-year-old torpedoman’s mate third class from California assigned to the submarine USS Charlotte died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on a nighttime watch as the sub was pierside at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.
On Dec. 4, 2019, Machinist’s Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, 22, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers, killing two, at the Pearl Harbor shipyard and then turned a pistol on himself while the sub was in Dry Dock 2 for a major overhaul.
Vincent Kapoi Jr., 30, and Roldan Agustin, 49, were killed and Roger Nakamine, 36, was injured in the shooting, which resulted in a base lockdown and sent shock waves through the state’s largest industrial employer, which has more than 6,400 mainly civilian workers.
Suicide was the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34 last year in Hawaii, the fourth- leading cause for ages 35 to 44, fifth for ages 45 to 54, eighth for ages 55 to 64 and 17th for those 65 and older, the state said.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ranked Hawaii 41st in the nation for suicide rates in 2020. An average of 190 Hawaii residents per year kill themselves, state data shows.
Suicide was also the fifth-leading cause of death among nonresidents in Hawaii from 2014 to 2018, according to DOH statistics.
Jessica Lani Rich, president and CEO of the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, said the organization, which helps visitors in crisis, has reached out to the Kahala to provide assistance if needed.
“Normally in situations like this, even though no (hotel guest) was injured physically, they are affected mentally and emotionally by this,” Rich said. “We want to offer comfort and support.”
While the barricade situation at the Kahala was unique, Rich said suicides in hotels in Hawaii and elsewhere happen more frequently than some might realize.
“Sadly, we deal with a number of hotel suicides,” Rich said. “I just dealt with one 10 days ago at a major hotel. Suicides don’t always make the news. In this situation it made the news because of what he did.”
Rich said she’s had cases were travelers came to Hawaii with the primary purpose of committing suicide away from family and friends.
“They don’t want to be at home when they do it. They don’t want family and friends to see them that way,” she said.
Star-Advertiser reporter William Cole and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional information.