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Incidents Involving Officer Firing Service Weapon in Line of Duty Not Common on Big Island

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Incidents during which police officers discharge their service weapons while in the line of duty are uncommon occurrences on the Big Island.

The incident last week during which an officer shot a Mountain View man with a knife who was not following police commands and approached the officer is the only officer-involved shooting thus far in 2022 and just the fifth since 2020 where an officer discharged his weapon while on duty, according to information from the Hawai’i Police Department.

The man involved in that incident was 41-year-old Jordan Cacatian. Body camera footage released by HPD shows the responding officer issuing several commands for Cacatian to drop the knife. When he didn’t comply, the officer shot Cacatian twice in the leg.

Footage goes on to show another officer deploying a Taser as Cacatian continued to ignore commands to drop the knife.

Cacatian was charged with first-degree terroristic threatening, first-degree attempted assault of a police officer and second-degree attempted assault. A Hilo District Court judge on Monday ordered a mental examination of the Mountain View man to determine his fitness to proceed. He remains in custody on $30,000 bail.

Another incident last week while officers were conducting operations at a business in Kona became the second this year during which an officer’s firearm was discharged while on duty and sixth in the past three years.

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Three people face theft charges in connection with the incident, during which officers from the HPD Area II Vice Section observed several parties exiting the business in the 73-5000 block of Olowalu Street in Kona with a large quantity of high-value items and trying to quickly load them into a vehicle and leave the area.

Officers attempted to contact the parties to further investigate, and as they approached the vehicle and identified themselves, the driver of the vehicle abruptly reversed in an attempt to flee. Officers ran after the vehicle, which stopped, and attempted to make contact again. As officers again identified themselves and attempted to remove the four people from the vehicle, one of the officer’s service weapon was discharged.

No one was injured.

There have been four more incidents in which an officer has discharged his service weapon in the line of duty since 2020 — two in 2021 and two in 2020.

The two 2021 incidents happened within five days of each other.

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On June 13, 2021, South Hilo Patrol officers responded shortly after 7 p.m. to a call of a physical domestic dispute at a residence on Mokuhonua Lane in Hilo. Upon their arrival, officers attempted to contact the occupants of the residence. A man came out of the rear of the residence with a semi-automatic rifle and opened fire on officers.

One officer, a 13-year veteran of the police department, returned fire and struck the suspect several times. The suspect died at the scene.

Then, on June 18, 2021, Hilo patrol officers responded at 11:20 a.m. to a break-in at a residence in the 1800 block of Kilauea Avenue in Hilo. Officers entered the vacant home and discovered a man armed with two knives hiding in one of the bedrooms. The male suspect cut one of the responding officers on the arm with one of the knives.

Two other responding officers fired shots from their duty weapons, killing the suspect.

The two times in 2020 when officers discharged their duty weapons occurred during the same incident.

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At about 9:15 a.m. March 19, 2020, on Daniel K. Inouye Highway, also known as Saddle Road, an HPD officer observed an early model green Jeep that had been reported stolen from a Kailua-Kona property traveling toward Hilo and transmitted his observations to other officers in the South Hilo District.

The Jeep was reported stolen the day before and police officers in Kona initiated a pursuit earlier in the day March 19 after observing the vehicle in the Kona area. However, the pursuit was terminated after the Jeep left the district. Officers notified HPD dispatch that the vehicle was likely headed toward Hilo.

South Hilo patrol officers attempted to conduct a traffic stop on the Jeep as it turned right onto Komohana Street, before turning right onto Ainaola Drive in Hilo and traveling west. Officers continued to pursue the Jeep, which came to an abrupt stop in the upper Waiākea-Uka area and one officer discharged his service weapon as the Jeep reversed toward another officer approaching the vehicle’s rear.

A female passenger of the Jeep fled on foot into a nearby pasture before being apprehended by other officers. The Jeep continued driving up Ainaola Drive before another officer discharged a weapon toward the fleeing vehicle, which was subsequently stopped on the roadway. The driver fled on foot and ran into a nearby pasture before he was arrested without incident.

No one was injured.

An internal investigation by the Office of Professional Standards is standard protocol following incidents involving the discharge of an officer’s service weapon. It also is normal procedure for the officer involved to be placed on administrative leave while the probe is underway.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, starting out as a reporter and working his way up to become a copy editor and page designer, most recently at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo.
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