Wednesday, April 14, 1999

‘I kept thinking that I didn’t
want to die, that I wanted to see
my kids grow up.’

Earl Haskell

‘Warriors’ risked
it all at the wrong
end of a gun

Two HPD officers receive
medals of valor for their
actions at Makapuu

By Rod Ohira


Death was a trigger pull away as wounded officer Earl "Puni" Haskell looked up from the ground at the man pointing a gun at his head.

"I was looking up the barrel and thought he was going to shoot again," said Haskell, recalling his confrontation with Peter K. Moses at Makapuu last Sept. 11, five days after his 28th birthday.

Haskell and officer John Veneri, who wounded Moses, today received the Honolulu Police Department's highest award for bravery, the Warrior gold medals of valor, for their performance at Makapuu. Only 25 other officers have received the award.

"I'd like to have earned something like that another way," Haskell said about the award. "I don't see myself as a hero. To me, that's someone who's saved another person's life."

In the split second before luck -- or fate -- intervened at Makapuu, Haskell instinctively recalled what training had taught him about survival.

At the same time, Veneri yelled at officer Laura Chong to take cover, causing Moses to turn away from Haskell.

"It gave me time to run to the side," Haskell said. "I drew my gun but he was gone.

"I realized the guy was across the street and I called for help with my radio. I tried to stand up but couldn't so I started to crawl (toward them)."

According to Deputy Prosecutor Larry Grean's account of the shooting, Moses ran across Kalanianaole Highway to Haskell's parked patrol car and fired a shot at Veneri.

Moses had taken Veneri's handgun during an earlier scuffle with the three officers, who were trying to arrest him for stealing property from a car, so Veneri used Chong's gun to return fire.

Veneri, a 15-year HPD veteran, fired 32 rounds and hit Moses eight times.

"I took her gun and told Laura to go back and take care of Puni because I've been through this before," said the 47-year-old Veneri, who exchanged fire and wounded bank robbery suspect Philip Caban on Date Street in September 1995.

'I thought of my family'

When the shooting stopped, Haskell's thoughts turned to his own injury.

"I saw blood going down my leg and knew it was bad," Haskell said. "I thought of my family and tried to focus on not panicking.

"I kept thinking that I didn't want to die, that I wanted to see my kids grow up. Then I started praying that I wouldn't die."

Haskell has had three surgeries since September.

"The bullet went through my gun belt, tore up my intestines and parts of my colon, and exited through my buttock," he said. "They reattached my intestines the first time and I was in the hospital until Oct. 4."

Haskell's wife -- the former Loralee Harrington -- gave birth to the couple's third child and second son on Oct. 2, while her husband was still in the hospital.

Nine days later, Haskell underwent colon surgery for a blood-clot complication. He returned to work Jan. 4 but had to have surgery again Feb. 20 to remove the colostomy bag.

Since returning to work April 5, Haskell has been answering telephones and filing reports in the East Honolulu patrol district office.

It's unsatisfying work for a street cop, but the nauseous feeling after every meal and his inability to gain weight reminds Haskell that he's not yet ready to handle anything more than light duty.

"I'd rather be out with the beach task force," Haskell said, referring to the tourist crimes prevention unit he was assigned to when shot.

"Until I get back out again, I'll never know for sure how all of this has affected me. I can't change what happened but I'm not going to let it determine how I run my life, especially since I plan on doing this the rest of my career."

Life support

Haskell said he's a policeman because "I never want to see anyone get hurt or have to ever look (up) the barrel of a gun."

The support of relatives, friends, fellow officers and especially his wife has helped him through some rough times during recovery, says Haskell.

"While I was in the hospital, my wife asked me if I was going to continue being a policeman," Haskell said. "I told her I wanted to continue. I'm thankful that she supports my decision."

Help from one who knows

Officer Stan Cook, shot eight times during a 40-bullet gunfight with John Sinapati in August 1994, also paid Haskell a meaningful visit in the hospital.

"He was wearing his uniform and told me I have a good chance to continue being a policeman," Haskell said. "Seeing him helped me a lot."

Haskell will celebrate his third anniversary as a Honolulu police officer in June, a month before Moses' often-postponed trial is scheduled to begin.

Chong and police officer Mike Arnone, along with ocean safety officer Randall Ching, received certificates of merit for the Makapuu incident.

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