Hawaii Mourns Two Police Officers Who Died After A Call For Help Turned Into A Chaotic, Fiery Tragedy
Two veteran officers died after a suspect attacked his landlord, opened fire on police, and set a fire that destroyed seven homes in his neighborhood.
Authorities in Honolulu are still looking for the remains of a suspect who stabbed his landlord, shot and killed two officers, who responded to her 911 call, and set his residence on fire, which also destroyed six other homes.
At 9 a.m. Sunday, Honolulu police responded to a call from a woman named Lois Cain, who "said she needed help," Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said.
Responding officers found her in her Waikiki home with a stab wound in her leg. As the police were walking down the driveway, a man opened fire and struck Officer Tiffany Enriquez, a seven-year veteran.
"This was a senseless and selfless act," Ballard said during an emotional a press conference Sunday night.
The suspect, who officials have identified as Jaroslav "Jerry" Hanel, continued to fire at police as they ran for cover, hitting Kaulike Kalama, who had been with the department for nine years, Ballard said.
More officers rushed to the neighborhood and saw "thick black smoke" coming out of the home, complicating an already chaotic, fluid crime scene.
As the fire intensified, spreading to neighboring homes, people in the area began sharing photos and video of the dark smoke billowing above palm trees. One user tweeted that she saw "2-3 houses on fire" and heard "live ammo." In her video, you can hear a loud, constant crackling above a cacophony of sirens.
Eventually, firefighters arrived, but officials explained that police stopped them from going into the burning structures in case the gunman was still actively firing or had triggered the ammunition.
"If they had gotten hit by one of those stray rounds, I wouldn't have been able to sleep at night," the police chief said.
The incident continued to escalate, Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves said at the press conference Sunday night. Firefighters had to battle flames while police surrounded them to ensure "they were protected at all times."
In total, the blaze destroyed seven homes and several others sustained smoke and fire damage.
Ballard said investigators are still on the scene and it will take days to comb through the wreckage and charred rubble. Three people, the 69-year-old suspect and two women, are still unaccounted for.
Authorities believe Hanel died in the fire, but will continue to search for the alleged gunman until they recover his remains. They are also still searching for the weapon he used, which Ballard suspects might have been a "type of long gun."
First responders took the woman who was stabbed to Queens Medical Center, Ballard said, though she was unsure of her condition at the time.
The FBI is assisting state authorities with the investigation, which officials say has rocked and forever changed the safe and quiet community.
“I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of the two officers as well as the entire Honolulu Police Department,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell tweeted. “This is an unprecedented tragedy for not only the City and County of Honolulu but the entire state of Hawai’i.”
Officers Enriquez and Kalama were parents and left behind devastated families, Ballard said, struggling to answer a reporter's question about the toll their deaths have taken.
"They left in the morning alive and [their families] get to the hospital and find out that their loved ones are no longer around," she said. "It's emotional."
One of Enriquez's children, Teiya Delgado, shared photos of her mother on Twitter, describing her shock and grief.
"Honestly, it’s a nightmare. It’s something you see on tv and you think it will never hit close to home," she wrote. "My heart is shattered, my pain is intense, and my family is broken. Prayers for my family, and prayers for Officer Kalama’s family too."
The veterans were the first Honolulu police killed in the line of duty since 2012, the chief said.
"They were like my kids," Ballard said, choking back tears. "They were with me for five years at receiving desk when I was a major down there...I know each one of them very personally."
When asked about the suspect, the chief said that her officers were familiar with him and had responded to the home several times, but that he had never "acted out" toward police before.
On Friday, Cain, Hanel's landlord, went to court to try and evict the 69-year-old.
“Defendant does NOT have a Rental Agreement to occupy the premises and Defendant has no ownership interest in said premises,” court documents obtained by BuzzFeed News state. “Despite repeated demands, Defendant has failed and refused to vacate the premises.”
In her eviction complaint, Cain said that Hanel had inflicted damages "in excess of normal wear and tear" on the residence.
Hanel had a history of mental instability and got into arguments with neighbors, his attorney, Jonathan Burge, told Hawaii News Now. Other court documents show that several neighbors filed restraining orders against the suspect.
According to the attorney, Cain had befriended Hanel and wanted to help him out despite his erratic behavior. She allowed him to live in the lower floor and to do repair work in exchange for rent.
Hanel believed that the FBI and Secret Service followed him, according to Burge, but resisted getting help. He often called 911 for false and inflated issues and was supposed to be in court Tuesday after officials charged him with making a fraudulent 911 call, Hawaii News Now reported.
Several police dash cam videos show previous interactions with Hanel. On May 28, 2019, he called and reported that drug dealers were outside his house. Responding officers chastised him for continuing to make false reports and warned him he could be arrested.
One of the officers was Tiffany Enriquez.
During her press conference Sunday night, Ballard addressed how officials deal with those who have mental health issues.
"That is one of our weak areas in our society right now, dealing with the mentally ill," she said. "That’s an area we need to move forward on and do a much better job with."