Suspect in Hilo Shooting Had History of Assault and Abuse, Used ‘Ghost Gun’ to Fire 30 Rounds at Police
Police say a 34-year-old Hilo man who died following a shootout with police in Hilo on Sunday evening had a history of assault and family abuse.
Ryan Santos was killed after he opened fire on four South Hilo Patrol officers responding to a report of physical abuse at a home on Mokuhonua Lane just after 7 pm on the evening of Sunday, June 13, 2021.
Hawai´i County Police Chief Paul Ferreira said in a press conference Monday that Santos’ younger brother contacted authorities after observing the suspect attacking their mother.
Police made contact with Santos at a doorway between the residence and its garage, where the suspect claimed everything was fine and closed the door. Officers indicated their obligation to check on the welfare of all others inside the house, which included Santos’ aunt and grandfather, along with his mother and younger brother.
Ferreira said that as officers made their way to the front door to make contact with Santos’ aunt, who was visible through a living room window, the suspect emerged from the kitchen area with a rifle that he aimed at officers.
“He fired, yelling and swearing as they retreated,” Ferreira told reporters.
Santos continued to fire at officers from the balcony of the home, unleashing 30 rounds of ammunition from two illegally-obtained rifles, several of which struck four separate police vehicles. Four stray bullets from Santos’ guns entered a neighboring residence down the street, which Ferreira said was unoccupied at the time.
The Chief added that the weapons Santos used were not owned by the suspect, as he was a convicted felon and prohibited from legally obtaining a firearm. One of the weapons was an AR-15 assault rifle, which Ferriera referred to as a “ghost gun.” Such weapons are purchased in individuals parts and then assembled. They have no serial numbers or other identifying marks.
Also recovered from the residence were a bolt action rifle and two shotguns. Ferreira said police were made aware the suspect had weapons upon the initial report of domestic violence.
One of the four officers who responded to the scene, a 13-year veteran of the force, grabbled a rifle from his vehicle upon retreating from the home just as Santos began to open fire. That officer returned fire, discharging 4-5 bullets and striking Santos at least once, who then retreated back indoors.
Santos later died at the scene as a result of his injuries. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday.
In the aftermath of the melee, it was discovered that Santos’ 91-year-old grandfather was suffering a medical emergency. Responders determined that he went into cardiac arrest. He was transported to Hilo Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead. Police said they believe he died as a result of a medical condition, though an autopsy has been scheduled to determine the precise cause of death.
Santos’ has a history of felony assault in the second degree. Ferreira said he had also been arrested 10 times on misdemeanor counts, including five convictions, for crimes such as abuse of a household member, drug charges and assault. He had also been arrested three times for petty misdemeanors. It is unknown if alcohol or drugs were factors in the incident.
The HPD officer who discharged his weapon is on mandatory leave, per department regulations. The other three are waiting on mental health consultations and wellness exams before returning to duty. All four officers were wearing body cameras, the footage from which Ferreira said could be made public as early as Tuesday.