Big Island manhunt continues in gulch, pasture land for attempted murder suspect on foot
The Big Island manhunt for Ronald Kahihikolo — who police say shot his domestic partner in the head at pointblank range with a modified shotgun three days ago — continues tonight in a rural area with a steep gulch in Hāmākua District, north of Hilo.
Kahihikolo was last seen driving what was believed to be a stolen white Dodge Sedan. He was spotted in the Kona area midday Friday driving northbound toward Waimea.
Police pursued him through Waimea. Near mile marker 40, he turned off Highway 19 (the Hawaiʻi Belt Road) and drove about a mile down a dirt country road. He abandoned the car about a half mile from the coastline and next to a gulch, which was about 100 to 200 feet deep with a sheer wall, new Hawaiʻi Police Chief Benjamin Moszkowicz said during a Friday evening press conference.
The police were only about 30 seconds behind, Moszkowicz said. But when the police came upon the car, Kahihikolo was gone. He did not have a passenger.
Moszkowicz said officers surrounded the gulch as best they could from both sides and received manpower aid from state and federal agencies, including the Department of Land and Natural Resources enforcement officers and the FBI “which does have some boots on the ground.” Moszkowicz said the Hawaiʻi Fire Department also flew a helicopter to search by air.
Kahihikolo is considered armed and dangerous, based on the attempted murder in Ocean View, but Moszkowicz said police do not know for certain if Kahihikolo has a firearm and ammunition with him.
While searching for Kahihikolo, police also warned people who live in the sparsely populated area. Moszkowicz estimated there are about “a dozen to 20 houses,” some of which were unoccupied.
Outside of the gulch, there is lots of pasture land with many cows and horses.
Moszkowicz said there were no sightings of Kahihikolo after he abandoned the car. But added: “Now that the sun is down, we actually kind of have an advantage in that we can use technology to quickly rule in or rule out this gulch area, and then hopefully have that to guide our search.”
Moszkowicz said the officers are using night vision technology and Forward Looking Infrared radar technology that enables officers to spot a human based on “body heat signature that might contrast with the outline of the surrounding terrain.”
Moszkowicz described the ravine area as “literally a jungle,” but said if Kahihikolo is “hunkered down there” this technology should find him, and if he is not, it will mean they can move the search elsewhere.
Meanwhile, people in the area on Friday afternoon seem to be as much curious as scared.
“I just came from that area, talking to the officers and the residents,” Moszkowicz said. “… People are outside because they are curious of what is going on and they want to help.”
While he was there, a couple of calls came in from people reporting that “cattle in a certain pasture were acting strange” and they wanted officers to check if the suspect was in the area.
Kahihikolo is easily identifiable by a tattoo with the word “Greed” on his right cheek near his eye. The 44-year-old is 5 feet 7 inches and 215 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.
Friday’s developments began in the morning, when police received a tip about Kahihikolo being with a group that had two stolen cars and were getting gas in the Kona area. Police canvassing the area spotted a silver Chevy Malibu that matched the description of one of the stolen cars as it was traveling southbound on Kamakaeha Avenue.
As the Malibu came to a stop at the intersection of Kamakaeha Avenue and Palani Road, the detectives attempted to contact the vehicle’s occupants. The male driver began reaching for an object. Fearing for their safety, two officers discharged their duty weapons, striking the driver, according to police.
The driver then drove the vehicle across all lanes of Palani Road and about 10 feet down an embankment before coming to a stop. The detectives ran towards the car and seeing the driver was injured immediately began to administer life-saving measures, but the man in his 30s died at the scene, police said.
Moszkowicz said although they think they know who the man is, he has not yet been positively identified. He also said the man’s family has not been notified.
A passenger in the vehicle, 26-year-old Jacqueline Keanaaina, of Kailua-Kona, suffered minor injuries in the traffic crash and was treated at the scene by Hawai’i Fire Department medics. She was then arrested for an outstanding warrant and transported to the Kealakehe Police Station.
Kahihikolo was not inside the Chevy. He was spotted by other officers while this incident was taking place. Moszkowicz said they are the only three people known to be involved in today’s incidents, despite a tipster saying there was “a group.”
And at this time, Moszkowicz said he does not know the relationship between the three people.
Regarding the officers-involved shooting, Moszkowicz said because the officers were plainclothes detectives, they were not wearing body cameras. They have been placed on administrative leave during the investigation and for their own well-being, emotionally, mentally and physically. One officer is a 25-year veteran and the other is a 13-year veteran.
Moszkowicz said he cannot say at this time if the shooting was justified or not.
“Until we actually get a complete statement and a full investigation occurs, it would really be premature for me to opine one way or the other — being ultimately, that is my role at the end of this whole process to come up with a determination as to whether it was justified or not,” Moszkowiz said. “At this point I can’t really express an opinion aside than just expressing the officers felt at the time their lives were in jeopardy and they felt that was the option available to them to protect themselves and other members of the community.”