Remembering fallen Hawai‘i Island police officer Bronson Kaliloa

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Hawai‘i Island police Sgt. Matthew Bartz was home when he got the news that his friend and colleague, Officer Bronson Kaliloa, had been shot.

Bartz rushed to Hilo Medical Center, but was too late. Kaliloa had died.

“I’m not sure I’m able to describe how I felt even all these years later, but not a day goes by that I don’t think of my friend,” Bartz said.

Last Monday marked five years since Kaliloa was murdered while performing a traffic stop in Mountain View. It was the first time a police officer was shot and killed in the line of duty in the 80-year history of the department.

“We’d lost officers before but not in such a violent tragic manner,” Capt. Rio Amon-Wilkins said.


To honor Kaliloa, who served 10 years on the force, his fellow officers started the Bronson Kaliloa Memorial Relay Run.

This year, the unofficial department event will take place on Sunday with participants running a 15-mile relay from the Hilo Police Station Memorial to Kaliloa’s roadside memorial in Mountain View.

Bartz participated in the run last year and plans to do it again on Sunday.

Bartz said the world became a lesser place the day the department lost Kaliloa, whom he described as a dedicated family man with a devotion to God.

Kaliloa left behind a wife and three children.


Bartz remembers having theological discussions with Kaliloa: “He prayed for officers every day.”

He also described his friend as an officer who never lost his cool, saying “I never heard him use a cuss word.”

The sergeant said Kaliloa was able to connect with people, often helping to bring situations safely under control.

Bartz said the run is an opportunity to bring attention to Kaliloa’s memory and not let him be forgotten.

The Hawai‘i Police Department also honored Kaliloa in a Facebook post on the anniversary of his death, July 17: “As we mark five years since the brutal murder of Officer Bronson Kaliloa, we are reminded that no amount of time could ever diminish the strength and courage that he brought to the Hawai’i Police Department.”

Officer Kevin Brodie makes a copy of fallen officer Bronson Kaliloa’s name using a pencil and paper at the Law Enforcement memorial in Washington. Courtesy photo

Kaliloa was shot in the neck and leg by fugitive Justin Waiki in 2018. After the shooting, Waiki led law enforcement on a five-day manhunt. He was ultimately found in the Ka‘ū District and died in a shootout with police.

Amon-Wilkins said the death of Kaliloa served as a reminder that nothing in the law enforcement profession is routine. Officers never know when any one of the 200 traffic stops in a day and multiple calls for service could be violent.

While it’s been five years since the deadly shooting, Amon-Wilkins hopes officers are all a little more cognizant of their surroundings.

“It was a tragic loss but it’s something we need to remember and learn from, and make a conscious effort not to be complacent,” he said.

It was hard to hide the impact Kaliloa’s death had on the department. Bartz remembers his brothers in blue being strained and saddened in the days immediately after the fatal shooting.

“No matter what, they showed up and did their job,” Bartz said. “In the toughest of times, they held true and did their duty.”

Chief Ben Moszkowicz said Kaliloa exemplified the best of the department, as evidenced by his 2012 Officer of the Month award and being named 2014 Puna Officer of the Year. More than simply being a good officer, he was highly respected by people he worked with closely.

Kaliloa’s name was added to National Law Enforcement Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., in 2019.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.

Tiffany can be reached at [email protected].
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