CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Daniel Vesper, above right, rocked and glared but stood quietly yesterday while officer Jeffrey Omai read a statement to the court about his injuries after Vesper ran over him.
Life without parole
Daniel Vesper gets the state's harshest sentence for running over a Honolulu police officer
A Honolulu police officer, who was run over by a stolen van driven by wanted fugitive Daniel Vesper, says he feels no bitterness toward the man who tried to kill him and instead hopes he gets help.
Officer Jeffrey Omai suffered multiple life-threatening injuries in the Dec. 2, 2004, incident that put him in a coma for almost a month. He underwent weeks of rehabilitation and physical therapy before he was allowed to return to full-duty in January.
While he values his life more now, some things haven't changed.
"Every day now is a gift to me; my values are still the same; I treat everyone on an equal level and hope they will respect me in the same way," he said yesterday, unfazed by Vesper's decision not to address him or the court when given a chance. "I think in time, once he gets the help he needs, he will come to realize what he did."
Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall handed Vesper, 45, the state's harshest penalty of life without parole yesterday, noting that he attempted to "engage in conduct that was known to cause the death of a police officer and it is warranted under the circumstances."
She also ordered Vesper to serve 20-year and 10-year terms for first and second-degree robbery to run at the same time as the life sentence. Before running over Omai, Vesper had struck a man at the University of Hawaii with a baseball bat several times earlier that day and made off with the man's mo-ped. The day before, he had hijacked a van belonging to a newspaper deliverywoman, pulling her out of the van and throwing her to the ground. It was that same van that he used to run over Omai.
Vesper was found guilty of first-degree attempted murder following a jury trial in October. At trial, he maintained he didn't know the men in civilian clothing converging on him in the parking lot of the Honolulu Community College were police officers. He denied intentionally running Omai over, maintaining that it was an accident and that Omai had jumped in front of his van to be a hero.
But Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter said Vesper knew he was being chased by officers.
"This was a person who knew what he was doing, he knew he was going to run over a police officer and didn't care about anybody but himself and trying to get away," he said.
Vesper's attorney, Jeffrey Hawk, said they expect to appeal Vesper's attempted murder conviction, not the other charges he admitted to. He said Vesper suffers from a mental illness, depression and claims to hear voices.
Omai said he still wakes up every day in pain and has frequent nightmares about trying to run from the van.
"Just as he's about to hit me, everything goes blank," he said.
"What people don't know is how close I actually came to dying," said Omai, who had been on the force for about four years and was at the time part of a plainclothes unit in the Kalihi district.
He had suffered multiple skull fractures, a broken eye socket, torn rotator cuff and torn discs in his spinal column that caused nerve damage.
An active outdoorsman who loved to run, swim, hike and paddle, Omai said he can no longer walk and run like he used to and moves with an awkward gait. But it won't deter him from doing what he loves.
"I joined the Police Department to protect and serve the community where I'm from," Omai said. "I risked my life while on duty and I'm still living to serve this community as a police officer ... It's what we do."