Man guilty of trying to kill officer
Daniel Vesper faces the harshest penalty: mandatory life in prison without parole
A Circuit Court jury convicted a 43-year-old man yesterday of trying to kill police officer Jeffrey Omai by running him over with a van.
The jury took about five hours to find Daniel Vesper III guilty of first-degree attempted murder, a charge reserved for attempting to cause the death of a law enforcement officer, judge or prosecutor.
He faces the state's harshest penalty -- mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole -- when sentenced Jan. 9 by Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Hawk said they intend to appeal. "Certainly the fight is not over yet."
He said the jury could have gone either way. "Both sides had very strong arguments, and in the end they went with the prosecutor's arguments."
The defense had argued that running over Omai was an accident and that the officer had jumped in front of Vesper's van to be a hero.
Vesper also contends he did not know that the men surrounding him in the parking lot at Honolulu Community College were police, because they were in street clothes and driving unmarked vehicles.
But Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter said there was ample evidence to show that Vesper knew Omai and six other plainclothes officers who converged on him in the community college parking lot on Dec. 2 were police.
According to prosecutors, at least two of the officers wore a dark-blue shirt or jacket with the lettering "POLICE," and they all wore their badges around the neck or clipped to the waist. At least two of them had their guns drawn, and Omai had his radio in his hand. At least one officer was heard yelling, "Stop, police."
The state alleged Vesper deliberately accelerated toward Omai and ran him over after he realized he was cornered, and because he hated police.
One of the jurors, Jack Wiers, said afterward that they wrestled with what Vesper was thinking and whether he knew Omai was an officer when he ran him over with the stolen van.
Once they agreed that Vesper understood the men coming after him were police officers, it boiled down to whether he acted knowingly, Wiers said.
Statements Vesper allegedly made supported their decision, Wiers said. Vesper allegedly made statements at the hospital a day after his arrest that he knew he had run over a police officer and would do it again if he had the chance.
Honolulu Police Chief Boisse Correa said he was extremely satisfied with the verdict.
"We believe it sends a clear and strong message that our community will not tolerate attacks on its police officers," he said in a written statement.
Omai, 38, suffered multiple facial and skull fractures and was in a medically induced coma for a week. He underwent therapy for more than a month and remains on injured leave from the department. He said he hopes to be able to resume working again.
Doctors say Omai has a good prognosis, but cautioned that the long-term effects from a brain injury are difficult to predict.