Tuesday, August 10, 1999

Cook charged
in cop’s death

The Maui officer, directing traffic,
was run over following a fiery
crash; the suspect fled

By Gary T. Kubota


WAILUKU -- Maui police have charged a 26-year-old Lahaina man in the death of Maui police officer Gene V. Williams, who died while directing traffic north of Kaanapali.

Bail was set at $53,000 for Jose A. China, who is confined at Maui Memorial Hospital, with a right knee injury and burns on his left arm and back area.

China, a cook at a Lahaina restaurant, faces a number of charges, including negligent homicide, reckless driving, driving while under the influence of alcohol, failure to render aid and driving without a license.

Police Lt. Charles Hirata said Williams was directing traffic on Honoapiilani Highway at a construction site near Pukolii when a car stopped in front of him was struck by a pickup truck at 2:28 a.m. yesterday.

Hirata said the car burst into flames and ran over Williams and the truck also caught fire.

The two drivers were able to get out of their vehicles, but Williams was trapped under the burning car and died at the scene.

The driver of the truck fled the scene but was later apprehended in the vicinity of the crash, Hirata said.

Meanwhile, Williams' family and police officers continue to grieve.

"It is difficult. It's affected us greatly," said Police Chief Thomas Phillips. "His loss will be felt for a long time."

When the crash occurred, Williams was on special police duty, working additional hours as a uniformed traffic duty officer being paid by a private company.

"They're performing a police function but being paid by private agencies," Phillips said. "It's common."

Williams is the fourth Maui police officer to die in the line of duty since 1941 -- the second to be killed while directing traffic. The others are:

Bullet Police officer Harry K.W. Fung died in 1941 while directing traffic at Baldwin High School.

Bullet Officer Frank Kong was shot to death in 1952 while trying to prevent two prisoners from escaping from jail.

Bullet Police officer William Roback was shot to death in 1958 while escorting a prisoner from Hana to Wailuku.

Williams, 38, who joined the Maui Police Department about four years ago, is married with a 3-year-old daughter and an infant son.

He was originally from Jackson, Miss.

He moved to Maui with his wife, whose parents live on the Valley Isle.

Williams was a member of the Pukalani Baptist Church.

"I guess you could sum him up as an extremely strong family man," said police Capt. Larry Hudson, a supervising officer.

Before becoming a police officer in 1995, Williams worked as a supervisor for Wackenhut of Hawaii, a security guard service at the Kahului Airport.

"He was a good man, and I knew he would make a good police officer," said William Roback Jr., a retired Maui police officer and a Wackenhut employee.

Roback, whose father died in the line of duty, said he understands the loss and feels very badly for Williams' family.

Hirata said investigators suspect alcohol may have been a contributing factor in the crash but won't know for a few weeks when they receive the results of laboratory tests.

Police investigators are also reviewing whether drugs and excessive speed may have contributed to the accident yesterday.

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