132 years after dying in the line of duty, Kohala captain honored during Police Week
May 16, 2023, 5:00 AM HST
* Updated May 16, 11:55 AM
On Sept. 29, 1890, Capt. T. N. Simeona, the pound master for the Kohala area on the Big Island, received orders to arrest a man with leprosy. The call would be his last. While trying to apprehend the man, he was shot and killed.
More than 132 years later, Simeona’s name was the seventh added to the Ka Malu Aloha police memorial wall outside the Hilo Police Station.
His engraved name joins those of five other Big Island officers and one park ranger who also paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving and protecting their community.
Big Island Police Chief Ben Moszkowicz told the captain’s story and honored the other fallen officers during a public ceremony at the station on Monday to mark the beginning of National Police Week.
The week provides a spotlight on the work police do in their communities and pays tribute to those who have died or been disabled in the line of duty. Monday also was Peace Officers Memorial Day.
Simeona’s story was rediscovered last year by a historian who works with the board of directors for the Hawai‘i Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Foundation. The historian dug through old newspaper accounts and records that included correspondence between the O‘ahu governor and sheriff on the Big Island.
As far back as the 1830s, leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, appears in records in Hawai‘i. Beginning in 1865, police and district judges in the Kingdom of Hawai‘i were required to arrest people suspected of having the disease. At this time, Hawaiians were suffering from death and disfigurement from the disease at an alarming rate. Fearing further spread, the Kingdom set aside land to confine leprosy patients.
On Monday, Moszkowicz explained that while it’s not clear exactly what Simeona’s function was as a pound master, when the captain got the call to apprehend the Kohala leprosy patient, he answered.
Simeona gathered a small group of officers and headed to the man’s grass hut, arriving late in the evening. The captain decided to wait until the next morning to approach. During the early morning hours of Sept. 30, Simeona and the other officers heard someone moving around inside the hut and began to move closer.
The captain announced himself and ordered the man to come out and surrender. The man did not comply, instead he could be heard loading a rifle. Next, without warning, shots rang out through the crisp Kohala morning and Simeona was shot and killed. While some officers ran for cover, one ran toward the gunfire to get Simeona to safety. That officer also was shot but survived.
Eventually, the man the officers were sent to take into custody was located and arrested before being transported to Kalaupapa on Moloka‘i for internment.
“Unfortunately, this harrowing tale was nearly lost to the annals of history without the honor and the chance to honor Capt. Simeona and the others for giving their lives to protect our island community,” Moszkowicz said.
In 1890, the Hawai‘i Police Department as it’s known today did not exist. Officers were overseen by a sheriff who was appointed by a police marshal on O‘ahu. And the police marshal was appointed by the king. So while not technically a member of the department, Moszkowicz said Simeona is considered a part of the island’s law enforcement ‘ohana.
The department is happy the Kohala captain is finally being honored for his sacrifice. Simeona also was added to the statewide law enforcement memorial on Sunday, according to the chief.
“Capt. Simeona’s sacrifice in defending the community, whatever it looked like when he did it, that still requires the same dedication and respect and honor that we celebrate,” Moszkowicz said after Monday’s ceremony.
It had been nearly five years since the last name was added to the memorial: Officer Bronson Kaimana Kaliloa, who died in the line of duty in July 2018.
Had it not been for the historian and others, along with some lucky coincidences, Moszkowicz said Simeona’s story could have been lost forever.
The other names on the memorial wall:
- Officer Manuel Cadinha, 1918
- Officer William “Red” Oili, 1936
- Officer Ronald “Shige” Jitchaku, 1990
- Officer Kenneth Keliipio, 1997.
- Park Ranger Steve Makuakane-Jarrell, 1999
- Officer Bronson Kaimana Kaliloa, 2018.
“As we pray today, we pledge to never forget them,” said police Chaplain Renee Godoy.
To read about them, click here.
This was Moszkowicz’s first Police Week ceremony as chief of the Hawai‘i Police Department. While he doesn’t know the people behind the names on the Hilo memorial, he said it is an honor to cherish the memory of people who were important to helping build the community.
Monday’s ceremony included a candle-lighting ceremony for the families of the fallen officers, a 21-gun salute followed by “Taps,” which rang out as the names on the wall were read outloud.
Remarks were given by other members of the Hawai‘i Police Department and Hawai‘i County Mayor Mitch Roth. Refreshments and fellowship followed.
As a prosecuting attorney for more than 20 years before becoming mayor, Roth said he recognizes the men and women of the Police Department as not just people he works with or friends, but as family.
“As I see our officers going out there everyday being bold and courageous, I know that God is with each of you, and I just want to let you to know that the people of the County of Hawai‘i, on behalf of the people of the County of Hawai‘i, that you are very much appreciated and we do remember those who we lost,” Roth said.
How do the survivors and the community honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to serve and protect? There are many ways, and they can be as simple as leaving a lei at the memorial in their honor, as many will do this week; donating funds or time in their honor and remembrance to an organization that helps the community; or simply thanking someone you know who is a police officer for their service.
“Trust me. It helps,” Moszkowicz said.
For those in uniform, Moszkowicz would argue the best way to honor those memorialized on the wall and others who lost their lives in the line of duty is to continue to serve and protect their community in their memory.
“By providing the public with the highest quality service by continuing to dedicate our lives to helping those in need, the memory of these seven officers will never perish but will live on in all of us and our actions forever,” the chief said.
During National Police Week, the public is encouraged to attend station tours in Hilo and Kona from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday. Call Sgt. Amy Omaya at 808-961-2264 to schedule an appointment.
Another ceremony will be held Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Kona Police Station.
To watch Monday’s ceremony in full, click here.
Hawai‘i Gov. Josh Green also ordered flags to be flown at half-staff Monday in honor of Peace Officers Memorial Day.
“Today, we honor the memory of heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving as law enforcement officers in our communities,” Green said. “We salute their service and offer our deepest gratitude for their commitment. We also thank the courageous men and women who serve daily and are committed to creating safer communities year-round.”