Officer's intent in chase called into question
Two men are ordered to trial in last week's crash of a stolen van
The Honolulu police officer who fired her weapon into a stolen van on Kalanianaole Highway last week said she believed the driver was trying to run her over. The driver's lawyer said his client was just trying to get away.
Sgt. Patrice Gionson said she thought, "He was going to run me over," when she saw the driver turn the steering wheel in her direction and saw the front wheels facing her at the Ainakoa Avenue intersection.
Gionson said she stepped to her right and fired one round into the van. No one was injured. She said the van was moving toward her when she fired.
The van continued past Gionson and crashed into a car behind her. It then crashed into 12 more vehicles.
Honolulu District Judge Lono Lee determined the driver, Patrick Masaoka, should stand trial for attempting to murder a police officer and for operating a stolen vehicle in connection with the Dec. 14 incident that halted afternoon traffic on Kalanianaole Highway.
Lee also ordered Masaoka, 27, to stand trial for drug promotion, possession of drug paraphernalia and for damaging 13 vehicles as he tried to squeeze the stolen van between two lanes of traffic. Masaoka's passenger, Randy Ahnee, 39, was ordered to stand trial for drug promotion and paraphernalia possession.
Police found two glass pipes in the van, each containing methamphetamine residue.
Attorney Clifford Hunt said Masaoka was not trying to run over Gionson. "He was just trying to get out of there. He was afraid he was going to get shot," Hunt said.
Honolulu police started tracking the stolen van after a motorist in Hawaii Kai reported it was being operated hazardously.
Officer Alex Duyag and Gionson said they positioned their vehicles on the westbound lanes of the highway at Ainakoa Avenue to cut off traffic. They said they saw the van near the back of the pack, drew their weapons and pointed it at the driver and passenger.
They both said they then ordered the van's occupants to show their hands.
Duyag said he heard the engine rev and saw the van accelerate toward Gionson, who was on the opposite side of the vehicle.