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Driver wreaks havoc at Waimea


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POSTED: Thursday, December 10, 2009

A man remained hospitalized last night in serious condition and in police custody after allegedly attempting to run down an officer in a futile attempt to escape.

The incident, in which officers drew their guns, frightened witnesses on hand to watch the surf at Waimea Bay and clogged North Shore traffic for hours.

“;It happened so fast, just a few minutes,”; said one woman who asked not to be identified.

Police said officers had been conducting speed enforcement on the Joseph P. Leong Highway in Haleiwa when a man sped past in an Audi yesterday morning.

Police later spotted the man driving into the Waimea Bay Beach Park parking lot and tried to stop him.

But the man, continuing to drive the car, tried to evade police and struck a metal pole and a vehicle, “;forcing an officer to jump out of the way,”; police said. He then hit a beach park sign and crashed into a HandiVan on the highway, police said.

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Officers grabbed the man as he climbed out of the car's passenger window and arrested him on suspicion of first-degree attempted murder.

He was transported to a hospital in stable condition, said Bryan Cheplic, spokesman for the Emergency Services Department.

The HandiVan driver, who appeared to be in her 40s, was also taken to a hospital in stable condition.

Police said the Audi driver “;remains hospitalized in police custody.”;

For more than five hours, the incident and its aftermath snarled traffic along the North Shore, which was already slow going because of big-wave spectators.

Police shut down Kamehameha Highway in the Waimea Bay area in both directions from about 10:55 a.m. until about 1 p.m., then contraflowed traffic between Sts. Peter and Paul Church and Iliohu Street until 4:20 p.m.

The entrance to Waimea Bay Beach Park remained closed until 5:17 p.m., when the two vehicles were towed away.

The incident occurred just a day after the area was packed with surf enthusiasts gathered to watch the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave invitational surf contest. Tourists were still flocking to the area yesterday to check out the 20- to 30-foot waves.

Witnesses from Los Banos, Calif., were just about to leave Waimea Bay Beach Park after taking photos when they heard sirens from a police car in pursuit of a silver car that was speeding on Kamehameha Highway.

About 10:45 a.m., the suspect, who appeared to be in his 20s, entered the beach's parking lot driving an Audi, and more police officers arrived. The witness said her husband was reversing to drive back into the parking stall after she saw the suspect driving erratically to elude police.

The witness, who asked not to be identified, told her 4-year-old son to get out of his car seat and down on the floor when an officer near their car drew her gun.

“;I didn't know whether the criminal had a gun or not,”; said the witness.

Another officer was at the exit of the parking lot with his gun also drawn.

“;At that point, I thought for sure the man was going to stop, but he didn't,”; she added.

The suspect jumped a curb and struck a parked car that was pushed into a third vehicle. He then knocked out the beach park sign and rammed into a HandiVan on Kamehameha Highway.

No shots were fired.

Three police officers and a civilian held the suspect down on the ground as he resisted. His legs were tied with restraints after he started kicking.