Hawai‘i Island police release body camera footage of deadly Puna shooting
Hawai‘i Island police released body camera footage of a shooting in Puna over the weekend that left a 30-year-old man dead.
Police had been searching for Kaena Kaohu, of Kea‘au, since Friday night after he was seen running from a residence on 34th Avenue in the Orchidland Estates subdivision armed with a handgun following a domestic argument with a brother.
Since they weren’t able to locate Kaohu right away, an All-Points Bulletin was broadcast to aid in the search. The 30-year-old had an active bench warrant for his arrest.
Officers searched the Puna District overnight with no luck in locating Kaohu. They ultimately received information on his whereabouts the following day at 2:30 p.m. that he was possibly hiding a residence on the dead-end side of 26th Avenue in the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision in Kea‘au. After speaking with the homeowner, the officers were given permission to enter the property to make checks.
Two body-worn camera videos were released from two different officers at the scene Saturday afternoon showing different perspectives of the shooting. Chief Benjamin Moszkowicz said the release of the videos is the department’s ongoing commitment to provide transparency to the communities they serve.
“These videos, while difficult to watch, demonstrate the extremely dangerous situations the men and women of the Hawaii Police Department face, in their efforts to keep our communities safe,” Moszkowicz said.
The first video, shows two uniformed officers and two plainclothes detectives wearing “POLICE” clothing arrive at the Kea‘au property, climb over a gate fronting the property and walk single file toward the home where they believed Kaohu to be at the time.
They call out to the suspect, urging him: “Kaena, Police Department. Come outside bud.” Officers repeatedly identified themselves as “Police” and urged him to “Come out with [his] hands up.”
After a few seconds, the officers see Kaohu running from the back corner of the residence toward a wooded area in the back. Continuing to identify themselves as “Police” the officers chase Kaohu into the woods, they also instruct Kaohu to show his hands and to, “Stop right now.”
The video shows officers running across a field, through brush, up an embankment and through a forested area. Just over 30 seconds into the foot pursuit, Kaohu fires a single shot and officers can be seen taking cover and broadcasting “Shots fired” over the radio.
After around 90 seconds, a partial transmission can be heard where an officer is asking: “Is the
suspect in custody?”
However, only a portion of the transmission is audible as the officers at the scene heard, “Suspect in custody.” Believing that Kaohu had been captured, officers begin walking through the wooded area, looking for the handgun he had been carrying.
As the officers in the woods approach the area where they last heard the suspect, other officers on 27th Avenue see Kaohu, holding a gun in his hands, approaching a nearby fence line. The officers begin shouting at him to, “Put the gun down. Drop the gun down.”
Instead, Kaohu turns and walks back into the woods.
According to the video footage, the officer sees Kaohu walking toward him carrying a handgun. The officer commands Kaohu to, “Put your hands up.” Instead, Kaohu brings the gun up with both hands, assumes a shooting stance and points his gun at the officer. Kaohu then fires at least one round at the officer. The officer fires at least one round back at Kaohu before falling backward to the ground and telling his partners that he was hit by a bullet, directly or by ricochet.
Another officer immediately checks on him and cannot find any blood. However, in checking on his partner while the other officers continue trading gunfire with Kaohu, the first officer’s body-worn camera is inadvertently knocked off its magnet mount and into the dirt.
Based on evidence recovered both from the scene and, later, the police station, authorities believe that when Kaohu emerged from the wooded area and fired his handgun, the bullet struck the officer’s Taser holster. Police say this explains why the officer fell to the ground after feeling the impact of a bullet.
“From our estimation, had Kaohu’s bullet struck just a few inches away, it could easily have gravely wounded, or even killed, the officer,” Hawai‘i Island police stated.
The second video shows a different perspective of these same events, however, the recording continues past when Officer One’s camera was dislodged from his uniform. After the first officer is knocked to the ground, officers inform their backup that the suspect is still armed and shooting at them. The officer in video number two can be seen doing a tactical reload as the suspect continues shooting.
Despite taking gunfire, the officers continued to give verbal commands for the suspect to drop the gun and roll onto his stomach. The final gunshot can be heard at around the 8-minute mark in video number two.
After this point, officers can be heard coordinating an approach to the suspect, keeping other officers away from danger, asking about a ballistic shield, and asking for medics to be called to the scene.
As they approach Kaohu, officers can be heard asking Kaohu to, “please show us your hands now.”
The officer in video number two approaches Kaohu’s location and the other officers can be seen handcuffing Kaohu, which is standard practice, checking him for injuries and attempting to provide first aid.
As is standard practice, the officers who fired their handguns turned over their duty belts and other equipment to investigators. The personnel involved include a detective with 17 years of service, a second detective with 11 years of service and two officers with five years and one year of service. They were all placed on administrative leave.
Police ask anyone who may have witnessed this incident to call the department’s non-emergency line at 808- 935-3311 or Detective Donovan Kohara of the Area II Criminal Investigation Section at 808-326-4646, ext. 238, or via email at [email protected].
Both body-worn cameras recorded a video buffer of 30 seconds before the officers activated them. During this time, however, there is no audio being recorded. The full videos have their audio partially redacted to preserve law enforcement tactics, and the video in one instance was partially redacted due to the graphic nature of its content.