Youths gathered yesterday at Mayor Wright Homes, a day after a gunfight at one of the units left one man dead and a police officer injured.

Cops in shooting are
put on paid leave

Five officers fired their guns at a
fugitive in a shootout on Thursday

The Honolulu Police Department put five officers on paid administrative leave yesterday after they discharged their firearms Thursday evening when fugitive Gordon Morse was shot and killed in a Kalihi shootout.

Police shot Morse, 32, after he allegedly fired his own weapon first and hit Kalihi police officer Ermie Barroga Jr., 45, in the shoulder. Morse and another man were surrounded on the second-story ledge of a Mayor Wright Homes unit along Pua Lane.

Barroga was reported in fair condition at the Queen's Medical Center yesterday.

"He loves his job," said Barroga's father, Ermie Sr., who added that he is proud of his son and his bravery.

Police identified the five officers put on leave as two uniformed patrol officers and three plainclothes officers, all stationed in Kalihi with Barroga.

HPD regularly places officers on administrative leave, pending investigation, when officers discharge their firearms.

An autopsy showed that Morse, 32, died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, although officials from the Medical Examiner's Office said he had several other gunshot wounds. HPD is investigating how many rounds Morse fired from his gun and how many rounds the officers fired at him.

Barroga was carrying a nonlethal shotgun, which fires beanbags, when Morse allegedly shot him. HPD officials would not say if Barroga was shot while positioning himself to shoot Morse with nonlethal rounds.

Another man, 19-year-old Manuel Kalaluhi, who was on the ledge with Morse, was also shot by police.

Kalaluhi was shot in the arm and grazed in the head. He was reported in stable condition at Queen's yesterday.

Police also arrested two other people in the unit for suspicion of hindering prosecution: Wade K. Martin, 35, and Laura E. Tavares, 33.

Kalaluhi has also been arrested for suspicion of hindering prosecution.

The day before the shooting, police had arrested Kalaluhi for driving a stolen vehicle. He was released the next day at 12:40 p.m., less than five hours before the Kalihi shootout.

At 4:45 p.m. Thursday a CrimeStoppers tipster told police that Morse was in a third-floor unit at Mayor Wright. By 5 p.m. police sent a group of Kalihi and Honolulu officers to arrest Morse and his companions.

According to police, when officers were outside the door, Morse, Kalaluhi and Martin climbed out the window and onto a ledge on the Pua Lane side of the unit. Morse and Kalaluhi then lowered themselves down to a second-story ledge while Martin climbed back inside the unit and was arrested with Tavares.

Witnesses said police yelled several times for both men to put their hands above their heads, but Morse allegedly kept his hands hidden under his shirt. Then, witnesses said, Morse brought out a firearm and fired several times at police below him, hitting Barroga. Police returned fire, killing Morse and wounding Kalaluhi.

Morse had been on the run since April 30, when police said he failed to return to the Laumaka Work Furlough Program while on a "resocialization" pass.

Morse was also identified as the suspect who took off in a stolen pickup truck on May 21 after a traffic stop near the intersection of Maunalaha Road and Round Top Drive, dragging a police officer behind him. The officer suffered minor leg injuries.

Morse was also recently identified as the suspect in a carjacking case that same day during which he escaped. However, police caught his companion hiding in the bushes near Punahou School.


Housing tenants blame

When Hana Sotoa Eliapo moved to Kalihi's Mayor Wright Homes two decades ago, going outside after dusk was a risk.

"The drugs were really bad," said Eliapo, president of the housing area's tenant association. "I thought, 'I wonder if it's safe for my children.'"

But today, despite a shooting Thursday at the housing area that killed one fugitive and injured a police officer, Eliapo said she feels secure in her Mayor Wright apartment.

"It's not as bad as way back when. ... People from the outside, they come inside our community and make our community look bad," Eliapo said. "But it has been a long time since we had this kind of thing in the community."

Eliapo and others said yesterday that Mayor Wright has become a much safer place to live in the past five years or so -- ever since community members started speaking out against drug dealers and gang violence.

Once the area was included under the "Weed and Seed Program" -- a collaborative law enforcement effort by federal, state and county agencies to "weed out" crime and plant "seeds" of economic growth -- things got a lot better, residents said.

"We really are a good community," said Saipeti Lafaele, secretary of Mayor Wright's tenant association. "We'd like to get over this, because we're not the ones doing drugs. ... They're coming from outside and creating troubles over here."

Eliapo said that all four of those involved in Thursday's shooting, including the 32-year-old man who was killed, were not residents of Mayor Wright. She said unit 33-M, where the incident began and where four suspects were allegedly staying, is occupied by a woman currently off-island.

"We don't need those kinds (the suspects)," Eliapo said. "They try to cause trouble. We don't need that. ... There's a lot of young children who live in this community."

Almost 2,000 people live at the housing area, which has about 364 units.

Eliapo said that when she first moved into the Kalihi community, "people were scared to speak out."

Now she and several others keep tabs on all of the new faces at the housing area and report suspicious activity to management and the police.

Eliapo admitted that not all the bad has been flushed out -- she suspects there are at least five drug houses in Mayor Wright. But, she added, "We try to get rid of these people."

Nineteen-year-old Rosita Nardo, who grew up at the housing area, said yesterday that she was shaken after hearing about Thursday's shooting. But she noted that things have gotten a lot cheerier in the community from when she was a kid.

"Over the years, everything changed," she said. "It's way better. ... The new generation, we're trying to make better."

But others were unconvinced the violence was isolated.

Drake Le, a high school freshman who has lived at Mayor Wright for about five years, said he is now more aware of his surroundings.

"What if we're at home and something happened like that?" he asked. "We thought it was supposed to be safe."

Nearby, a group of girls and teenagers played in the apartment balcony adjacent to where the shooting occurred. They laughed and exchanged candies as they discussed the grisly details of what they had seen the night before.

One young girl said she had heard the gunshots and seen the dead man's body.

Jessica Piengkham, a ninth-grader at McKinley High School, said the shooting has left her feeling "in-between" -- a little scared that "it could happen any time, today or tomorrow," and surprised it happened at all.


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