Police Investigate BJ Penn for DUI Following Traffic Incident

February 11, 2020, 2:08 PM HST (Updated February 11, 2020, 2:22 PM)
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Photo credit: ESPN.com

Former UFC Champion Jay Dee Penn, more commonly known by his nickname BJ Penn, is under investigation by the Hawai‘i Police Department for a possible DUI violation stemming from an incident in Hilo last week.

On the evening of Friday, Feb. 7, at approximately 7 p.m., Penn was operating a black Toyota Tacoma pickup truck when it was involved in a single-vehicle crash on Route 11 in Hilo.

According to Puna Patrol Cpt. Ken Quiocho, a caller report made to HPD Friday indicated that the truck was speeding, lost control and flipped into the area fronting Prince Kuhio Plaza.

Penn, the only occupant of the vehicle, was transported by ambulance to Hilo Medical Center (HMC). The extent of his injuries and his current condition are unknown. Multiple attempts to contact his sister-in-law, Jodi Penn, were not returned as of 2 p.m. Tuesday.

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Quiocho said police believe that speed was “certainly a factor in the crash.” However, because of a relatively new protocol, patrol officers were unable to administer a blood alcohol content (BAC) test at the scene.

Prior procedure allowed for police to conduct a blood draw at the scene of a one-vehicle accident involving only the driver if they believed alcohol or drugs to be involved.

That procedure was changed via state law and currently, a search warrant is required to conduct a blood draw under those circumstances, Quiocho explained.

The protocol is different when there are multiple vehicles and/or victims in a crash. But when a crash only involves one person and that person requires medical attention, the well-being of the victim takes precedence over any other procedure, Quiocho said.

BAC results are invalid in Hawai‘i if procured more than three hours after an incident.

However, hospitals that treat victims of car crashes often take blood samples from patients upon their arrival at the facility. Based on privacy laws, it is then up to each hospital individually what information they choose or don’t choose to share with police.

Quiocho said HMC administered a blood draw on Penn Friday night and subsequently reached out to police to share the results.

Because the investigation into Penn remains open, Quiocho was unable to disclose the results of the blood test to Big Island Now. However, he said it was the results of Penn’s blood test that prompted the DUI investigation in the first place.

Penn, 41, is of partial Hawaiian descent. He was raised in Hilo, where he currently resides and operates Penn Fitness and Training Center.

A mixed martial artist and practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Penn rose to prominence by claiming multiple UFC championship belts simultaneously in separate weight divisions. According to ESPN, Penn has a career record of 16-14-2.

Penn made headlines in the summer of 2019 when TMZ reported he was involved in an altercation outside a bar in Pāhoa dubbed the Lava Shack.

A source told Big Island Now Penn had been at the Lava Shack Friday prior to the traffic incident that sent him to the hospital and prompted HPD’s DUI investigation.

This story will be updated as more information on the investigation and Penn’s condition become available.

Max Dible
Max Dible is the News Director for both Big Island Now and Kauai Now. He also serves as News Director for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations. He formerly worked as a community reporter for West Hawai‘i Today in Kailua-Kona from 2016 to 2019. Before that, he was a sports editor, sports reporter, and radio talk show personality covering college athletics in Iowa. He's won several regional and national journalism awards, at both the collegiate and professional levels, for breaking news, long-form feature writing, and his work as a sports columnist.

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