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Aloha Exchange Club Recognizes Officer and Firefighter of the Year

March 22, 2022, 4:06 PM HST
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The Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi recognized South Hilo Patrol Officer Benjamin Nishimoto as 2021 Officer of the Year and Hawai‘i Fire Department Emergency Medical Services Specialist II Elijah McDaniel as Firefighter of the Year during a ceremony on Monday, March 21, 2022, in Hilo.

Nishimoto, a 13-year HPD veteran, was recognized for his bravery and valor in the line of duty during an active domestic dispute that he and other officers responded to last June between a mother and son. The male suspect, who was in the garage, told officers that everything was fine but appeared agitated and anxious and went back into the house. Nishimoto proceeded to the front door and, as he was talking to the female victim, heard the sound of a round being chambered in a bolt-action rifle.

Seeing the suspect emerge from the back of the kitchen with a rifle at the ready, Nishimoto alerted his fellow officers, giving them extra time to retreat and seek cover as the suspect opened fire on the officers.

“Without hesitation or regard for his own personal safety, Officer Nishimoto was able to bring the incident to an end,” HPD stated. “His courage and quick thinking saved the lives of his coworkers and the people within the residence.”

Police Chief Paul K. Ferreira thanked the Aloha Exchange Club for honoring Nishimoto, and their unwavering support of our officers throughout the years.

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“This tragic incident is a reminder to all of us about the inherent unknown dangers associated with the honorable profession we have chosen as police officers,” said Ferreira. “And I am so very thankful for the officers like Ben Nishimoto, who place themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis to ensure the safety of the Hawai`i Island community.”

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For Firefighter of the Year, McDaniel was recognized for his dedication to serving his community and his professional leadership. He has been with the fire department for 14 years and trained as an Emergency Medical Services Specialist for more than a decade. McDaniel was praised for working well under pressure in stressful situations, as well as the way he interacts with patients, community, and coworkers effectively and professionally, always demonstrating a willingness to serve.

“It is my honor to recognize Elijah for his dedication to the department and the public,” said Fire Chief Kazuo Todd, thanking the Aloha Exchange Club for honoring McDaniel. “His work ethic and willingness to pitch in when needed are a credit to his upbringing. The community of North Kohala is blessed to have him serving as a paramedic.”

Also attending the ceremony and recognized were 2020 Office of the Year Joshua Willing and 2019 Firefighter of the Year Battalion Chief William Bergin. Due to COVID-19, public ceremonies were not held for the past two years to honor the recipients.

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Every month the Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawai‘i honors a police officer in East Hawaii as their officer of the month. Officers are nominated by their supervisors from the police districts in Area I, including Hāmākua, North Hilo, South Hilo, and Puna, and a winner is selected.

All officers selected for Officer of the Month are eligible to be selected as the Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawai‘i Officer of the Year. The club previously honored Officer Nishimoto as Officer of the month for June 2021. The Firefighter of the Year nominee is submitted to the Club by the fire chief.

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