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Kona Crime Prevention Committee Honors 3 Officers

May 8, 2022, 11:00 AM HST
* Updated May 8, 10:41 AM
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Three West Hawai‘i police officers were recently honored by a crime prevention organization.

The Kona Crime Prevention Committee selected Charles Caldwell-Kaai as its November Officer of the Month, Elijah Won as its Officer of the Month for December 2021 and Reuben Pukahi as the Officer of the Month for January of this year.

The officers were awarded during a ceremony April 6 at Huggo’s on the Rocks in Kona. The committee’s regular monthly luncheons were paused several months because of surges in COVID-19 cases, and members were thrilled to again honor the officers in person.

Caldwell-Kaai was selected for the award because of proactive efforts that resulted in the arrest of a person responsible for multiple car break-ins.

On July 12, 2021, Caldwell-Kaai was conducting checks in the Keauhou boat ramp area when he encountered a man acting suspiciously in a Toyota pickup truck. The man told the officer that he was waiting for a relative who was fishing; however, it turned out that the pickup was reported stolen. The man also provided Caldwell-Kaai with a fake name.

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“Upon discovering the man’s real name, officer Caldwell-Kaai learned he had three outstanding warrants for arrest,” said a press release from the Hawai‘i Police Department about the recent awards. “While arresting the individual for the stolen vehicle and the outstanding warrants, officer Caldwell-Kaai noticed several items within the truck that had been reported stolen days earlier.”

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Upon further investigation, it was determined the man was wanted for seven additional crimes, including auto theft, vehicle break-ins and theft. The man was ultimately charged for 11 offenses.

Won was selected as an Officer of the Month for his dedicated efforts to traffic enforcement.

While conducting beat checks in July 2021, Won conducted a traffic stop on a driver who committed a minor traffic violation. The driver was arrested for a previous unrelated incident, and Won noticed the driver was acting peculiar.

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“Sensing something was off, officer Won conducted a thorough external visual search of the car and saw a glass smoking pipe used for ingesting crystal methamphetamine,” the press release said. “The driver’s car was recovered and in the course of investigation, a ghost gun — a firearm with no serial number that’s virtually impossible to track — was recovered.”

Pukahi was honored for his selfless actions while helping rescue two female swimmers in distress.

On Aug. 10, 2021, Pukahi, along with Kona Community Policing Sergeant Michael Hardie, were at Honl’s Beach Park on Ali‘i Drive in Kona addressing community complaints of undesirable activities in the area. Surf conditions that day made it very dangerous for amateur and inexperienced beachgoers, and while the officers spoke with a young boy about the surf conditions, they observed two older women attempting to enter the water on the opposite side of the beach.

“Before officers could intervene, the two women entered the water and were quickly separated and swept away by the strong currents,” the press release said. “Seeing the women in distress, some area surfers started paddling over to assist them.”

Recognizing that the situation was getting worse and more assistance would be necessary, Pukahi quickly changed out of his uniform and into traditional surf attire and commandeered a bystander’s surfboard. Paddling through the surf to one of the women, Pukahi pulled her onto his surfboard just as she was about to be swept onto the rocks and brought her back to shore safely.

Officers are nominated for the Officer of the Month honor by their supervisors from the various police districts and a winner is selected by the Kona Crime Prevention Committee board of directors. All Officer of the Month awardees also are eligible to be selected as the committee’s Officer of the Year.

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