Puna Officer Receives Haweo Award for Investigative, Mentoring Skills
For his relentless determination in the apprehension of two suspects involved in an array of crimes involving firearms, drugs, and a stolen vehicle, Hawai‘i Police Department Officer Jonathan Rapoza was honored with the Haweo Award during a ceremony held at Hawai‘i County Council chambers in Kona on Tuesday, March 22.
The award was presented by the Council’s Parks and Recreation and Public Safety Committee, which recognizes county police and fire department personnel who go above and beyond the call of duty. Haweo, for which this award is named, means to glow or to be radiant. Rapoza was presented with a lei and a certificate signed by each councilmember at the ceremony.
As a field training officer in the Puna District, Rapoza is responsible for the training and evaluation of a new police officer, preparing them as they transition to their role as a solo patrol officer.
At the time the incident occurred, Rapoza was training Officer Keaolapule Fessenden-Grace who had been on the road as a new officer in training for less than two months, the police department stated in a news release.
The two officers responded to a burglary in which a firearm and a vehicle were removed from a residence. Even though the owner of the residence was on vacation on the mainland when the crime occurred, the officers were able to work with a house sitter and obtain key information as part of the investigation.
After initiating the burglary report, the officers overheard on the police radio about a suspicious vehicle in a subdivision that matched the description of the stolen vehicle from their investigation.
Arriving at the location of the reported suspicious vehicle, Rapoza and Fessenden-Grace found a vehicle that had clearly been disguised to prevent detection and arrested the man and woman found within the car.
After recovering the vehicle and obtaining a search warrant, investigators found methamphetamine within the car and determined the vehicle was indeed the one stolen from the burglary incident. The two suspects were questioned and their information led to the identity of an individual who coordinated multiple other property crimes and thefts, including the theft of firearms.
The man and woman were charged with habitual property crime offenses, vehicle theft, and drug offenses for the drugs found within the stolen vehicle — all felony offenses.
Conducting a detailed and thorough investigation at the onset of a case is vital in ensuring that a crime can be solved and prosecuted. Investigators in the case commented that the initial investigation done by Rapoza as he mentored Fessenden-Grace was exceedingly well done, along with the arrest of the two suspects in the case.
Rapoza demonstrated dedication and leadership while teaching Keaolapule Fessenden-Grace the importance of good old-fashioned police work.
“It is this kind of relentless determination that makes our community safe,” said Puna District Sergeant Shawn Tingle, Rapoza’s supervisor who nominated him for the award.
“The example of leadership and determination by Officer Rapoza will impact Officer Fessenden-Grace in his future with the Hawai‘i Police Department in making the community a safe place to live, visit, and conduct business.”