The Hawai‘i Police Department (HPD) has released the name of the suspect in the officer-involved shooting that occurred over the weekend in Kea‘au and have released two videos containing Body Worn Camera (BWC) footage to the media.
On Friday evening, September 22, 2023, around 11:45 p.m., Puna patrol officers responded to a report of a domestic argument between two brothers involving an armed suspect at a residence on 34th Avenue in the Orchidland Estates subdivision of Kea‘au. When they arrived, one of the parties, a 30-year old male armed with a handgun, fled on foot. Officers were unable to locate the male with the handgun and broadcast an All-Points Bulletin for the suspect. Officers completed their investigation, identified the suspect as 30-year old Kaena Kaohu of Kea‘au, and classified the incident as a first-degree terroristic threatening case. Police also confirmed that Kaohu had an active bench warrant for his arrest.
Overnight, officers in the Puna district continued searching for Kaohu but were unable to locate him.
On Saturday, September 23, around 2:30 p.m., officers received information that Kaohu may be hiding at 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 uniformed officers, equipped with body-worn cameras (BWCs) were present at the address during this incident.
On Monday, September 25, the Hawaii Police Department released the BWC video from both officers. Both BWCs 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.
Video number one shows that along with the two uniformed officers, two plainclothes detectives wearing “POLICE” clothing arrived at the residence and entered the property by climbing over a small gate fronting the property. Believing Kaohu to be inside the residence, and knowing he was armed with a handgun the previous evening, the officers make a tactical approach down a long driveway towards the residence and seek cover behind a nearby parked vehicle.
They call out to the suspect, urging him, “Kaena, Police Department. Come out side bud.” They repeatedly identify 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 towards 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, they 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.
The officer in video one then sees Kaohu walking towards 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 backwards 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 BWC is inadvertently knocked off its magnet mount and into the dirt. After officers moved on from that location, the BWC was not collected again until the incident was over.
Due to the graphic nature of the video, Viewer discretion is advised
Video number two shows a different perspective of these same events, however the released recording continues past when Officer One’s BWC 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 gun shot 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. Based on evidence recovered both from the scene and, later, the police station, we believe that when Kaohu emerged from the wooded area and fired his handgun (as shown on the first officer’s BWC footage) the bullet struck the officer’s Taser holster. This explains why the officer fell to the ground after feeling the impact from 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.
Due to the graphic nature of the video, Viewer discretion is advised
Message from Chief Benjamin Moszkowicz:
“We are sharing the BWC footage as part of our ongoing commitment to provide transparency to the communities we serve,” said Chief Benjamin Moszkowicz. He continued, “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.”
Police ask anyone who may have witnessed this incident to call the police department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311 or Detective Donovan Kohara of the Area II Criminal Investigation Section at (808) 960-3118 or Donovan.Kohara@hawaiicounty.gov