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StarBulletin.com

Police shoot alleged thief trying to escape in vehicle


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POSTED: Sunday, November 29, 2009

Police shot a suspected car thief who allegedly drove toward an officer investigating a stolen vehicle in Kapalama yesterday morning, the third Honolulu police shooting this month.

The suspect, a 21-year-old McCully man, was taken to the hospital in stable condition with an apparent bullet wound to the ribs. He was released from the hospital within two hours and arrested on an outstanding warrant.

An officer hurt his wrist while trying to subdue the suspect after the shooting. He was treated at the hospital and released.

The incident started about 10:30 a.m. when three plainclothes officers looking for a stolen Dodge Ram pickup truck spotted it on Makuahine Street, Honolulu Police Capt. Letha DeCaires said.

The officers followed it onto Makuahine Place, but found it already parked on the side of the dead-end street. It wasn't clear if anyone was in the truck, she said.

A Dodge Neon facing the wrong direction was stopped in front of the truck with a man in the driver's seat and a woman in the passenger seat. Two men were outside talking with the driver of the car, which was later found to have been reported stolen, DeCaires said.

Three officers with badges on their chests approached the Neon, and the man began revving the engine and drove toward one officer, hitting an unmarked police car, DeCaires said. An officer fired several shots, hitting the driver once, DeCaires said. She did not know how long the officer had been with the police department.

Police questioned one of the two men who were standing outside the Neon, and arrested one for a warrant and on suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle, the pickup truck.

; The woman in the passenger seat of the Neon fled, but was later located and questioned, DeCaires said.

The woman, 21, declined to give her name, but told the Star-Bulletin that she had been in the truck with her boyfriend, who was later arrested.

She said she didn't know the truck was stolen because her friends had the keys. She had been riding in the truck with two friends when her boyfriend pulled into Makuahine Place to meet the man driving the Neon.

She said her boyfriend parked the truck and told her to get in the Neon. After she did so, she saw police officers walking toward the car.

The driver reversed into a driveway and officers drew their guns on both sides. An officer told her to get out, which she did because she was scared, she said. Then she heard one shot and several more as she walked to the garage of a house, “;flinching every time.”;

“;First time I got into this situation,”; she said. “;It's kind of scary.”;

The car hit a street light, where it came to a stop.

Some residents said Makuahine Place is a place known for drug activity and where stolen cars are abandoned.

It was the third time this month Honolulu police officers shot a suspect trying to flee in a vehicle.

All of the shootings involved officers firing their weapons at suspects trying to escape in vehicles. DeCaires said in each case the officers decided it was necessary to protect themselves and the community.

Last Sunday morning on Cooke Street in Kakaako, an officer shot and injured Gerald F. Galon Jr., who tried to escape as another officer questioned him. He was shot in the hip as he tried to drive off with another officer hanging onto the vehicle. Galon was arrested after being released from the hospital Monday. He faces numerous charges, including assault of a law enforcement officer. The officer who was dragged by the escaping car had a bruised arm but refused treatment.

On Nov. 3, police shot car-theft suspect Jeremiah Lopez III three times at the drive-through line of the Waikele Center KFC as he allegedly tried to escape from police in a stolen Dodge Durango. Police said Lopez drove the car at officers, hitting one, who suffered a back injury. Another officer suffered an injured shoulder. Lopez also faces multiple charges, including two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer and auto theft.