Friday, August 13, 1999

Charge stiffer in death
of Maui police officer

By Gary T. Kubota


WAILUKU -- A driver allegedly involved in the traffic death of a police officer was charged with manslaughter yesterday.

Ricardo Rodriguez-Pantoja, 25, a cook at a Lahaina restaurant, had been charged with negligent homicide, which carries a maximum jail term of 10 years. Manslaughter has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

At his initial court appearance, bail for Rodriguez-Pantoja, also known as Jose A. China, was raised by Wailuku District Judge Rhonda Loo from $54,000 to $100,000. Rodriguez-Pantoja's preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday in Wailuku District Court.

Maui police officer Gene V. Williams, 38, was directing traffic at a construction site north of Kaanapali when a pickup truck allegedly driven by Rodriguez-Pantoja hit the back of a car causing it to burst into flames before 3 a.m. Monday.

Traffic investigators say the car ran over Williams and pinned him. Williams died at the scene.

Immigration officials say Rodriguez-Pantoja, an illegal alien, bought a birth certificate in Los Angeles with the name of China.

Maui police say Rodriguez-Pantoja had no driver's license and vehicle insurance.

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