Wednesday, November 17, 1999

Cops mourn officer who
died during drug bust

By Gary T. Kubota


WAILUKU -- A Maui police officer who died of a heart attack while helping shut down the largest crystal methamphetamine lab in Hawaii was praised for his work.

During a memorial service last night, police officers described Cerilo A. Agarano as a good friend and policeman.

Maui Police Chief Thomas Phillips, interviewed before the service, said Agarano was always willing to help when asked for assistance and had a knack for vice work and developing sources of information.

"He was involved in some very good cases," said Phillips, who worked as a vice supervisor when Agarano was about to join the department in 1979.

"He was more than a dedicated policeman. He was a good friend. That's what makes it really hard for all of us. We'll really miss him."

Agarano, 45, died of a heart attack while hiking with federal agents during a pre-surveillance of a crystal methamphetamine manufacturing plant in Kanaio last week.

Thomas Kelly, agent in charge of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in Hawaii, praised the investigative contribution of Agarano.

"He played a very significant role," Kelly said.

The drug surveillance helped lead to the shutdown of the largest crystal methamphetamine manufacturing operation in Hawaii, Kelly said.

"For Hawaii, it's the largest one so far," Kelly said. "There haven't been that many clandestine laboratories found here."

Charged with manufacturing crystal methamphetamine is Thomas M. Wender, 48, a legal researcher on Maui. Wender, arrested Thursday at the Kanaio residence, is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court on Friday for a bail hearing.

Kelly estimated the laboratory in remote Kanaio probably produced 2 to 5 pounds of methamphetamine and was capable of producing 10 pounds a day.

A pound of crystal methamphetamine, commonly called "ice," is worth $48,000 in street value.

During wake services at Ballard Family Mortuary last night, police Sgt. Carl Freitas described how Agarano, a former beat partner, loved practical jokes.

Freitas said on his last shift before becoming a sergeant, Agarano put a goose in the police car, then recorded the incident on videotape.

Funeral services for Agarano were scheduled for today at Christ the King Church, followed by burial at Maui Memorial Park.

Agarano, who served 20 years in the police department, is survived by his wife, Reyna, his 4-year-old twins Kalen and Selena, and his 26-year-old son, Darren.

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