Tuesday, August 17, 1999

Arraignment set
in officer’s death

By Mark Vieth
Special to the Star-Bulletin


WAILUKU -- A Lahaina man will be arraigned in Maui Circuit Court tomorrow on charges stemming from a car crash in Kaanapali that killed a police officer last week.

A Maui County grand jury Friday indicted Ricardo Rodriguez-Pantoja, 25, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, on charges of manslaughter, first-degree negligent homicide, leaving the scene of an accident involving death, driving without a license and lacking insurance.

Rodriguez-Pantoja, who has pleaded not guilty, is being held at Maui County Correctional Center with bail set at $100,000.

At 2:58 a.m. Aug. 9, Lahaina police officer Gene Williams was directing traffic at the state's Honoapiilani Highway widening project when he stopped a northbound 1983 car driven by Francisco Javier Suarez-Diaz near Puukolii Road.

Police said Rodriguez-Pantoja, driving a 1988 pickup truck, smashed into the rear of the car, causing it to explode and run over Williams.

Both drivers escaped their burning cars, but Williams was trapped and died at the scene.

Rodriguez-Pantoja fled the scene on foot, police said. He was caught near Honokowai on a dirt path along the highway.

After the collision, Suarez-Diaz, 28, of Lahaina, also an illegal immigrant from Mexico, was subsequently arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Donald Radcliffe, district director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Honolulu, said Suarez-Diaz was deported at a hearing Friday evening.

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