Mountain View, Hawaii – Hawaii Police Officer Bronson Kaliloa died in the line of duty on Wednesday, after he was shot in the neck and leg during a traffic stop the night prior, according to the department.
The incident occurred at approximately 9:47 p.m. on Tuesday, when officers conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle on Highway 11, near Kukui Camp Road, in the Big Island’s Puna District, the agency said in a press release.
Police were aware that the driver, 33-year-old Justin Waiki, had an outstanding no-bond warrant, Hawaii Police Chief Paul Ferreira said during a news conference, according to FOX News.
As the officers approached the suspect’s vehicle, Waiki got out of the driver’s seat and began shooting at police, the department said.
Officer Kaliloa, a 10-year veteran of the force, was hit in the neck and leg, according to police.
His fellow officers immediately returned fire, but Waiki escaped on foot and disappeared into the dense brush nearby.
The predominantly rural area where Waiki was last seen was also just northeast of the erupting Kilauea volcano, which has been spewing streams of lava across roads and neighborhoods for the past two months, FOX News reported.
The manhunt for Waiki was still underway as of Thursday.
Officer Kaliloa was transported to the Hilo Medical Center by ambulance, where he was immediately taken into surgery.
He succumbed to his injuries at approximately 12:45 a.m. on Wednesday.
Officer Kaliloa was the first officer to be fatally shot in the history of the department, FOX News reported.
“This is probably the worst day in my 36-year career as a police officer,” Chief Ferreira said. “This was an officer, a father, a son, a husband. Put a face to the name.”
Waiki, a three-time felon with dozens of misdemeanor convictions, was released on a low bond in 2017 over the objections of prosecutors, KHNL reported.
When he was convicted of his first felony forgery charge in 2005, Judge Glenn Hara told him he had “a gross disregard for authority,” KHNL reported. “He does not give a rip. He is going to do what he wants to do.”
He served five years on probation, but was arrested for meth possession and having a loaded gun in 2013. The court sentenced him to four more years on probation and sent him to jail for 18 months.
In November of 2017, Waiki absconded from probation and relocated to Las Vegas.
He was extradited back to Hawaii, but Judge Henry Nakamoto refused to increase his bail.
Waiki failed to attend his court hearing in March, and has been a fugitive ever since.
Officer Kaliloa, a native of Kauai, spent many years working as a city bus driver on Oahu before he joined the Hawaii Police Department on the Big Island on Aug. 1, 2008, KHON reported.
He was initially assigned to the patrol division in South Kohala, then transferred to the Puna district in 2010.
Officer Kaliloa was named as Puna’s “Officer of the Year” in 2014, FOX News reported.
During Kilauea’s most recent eruption, Officer Kaliloa manned checkpoints in the area and went out of his way to help others, said Kale Gumapac, a friend of the fallen hero’s family.
“There’s a lot of aloha that went out to him from all the people that had any contact with him during the eruption,” Gumapac told KHON. “They really, really liked him, and like I said, it’s a loss to the community that we lose a young man with so much aloha for the community.”
Officer Kaliloa leaves behind his wife of 23 years, as well as his three young children.
“Bronson Kaliloa loved the Lord with all his heart and in his image,” his family wrote in a statement to KHON. “He was a Proud Father of 3, ages 7, 4 and 3, an Adoring and Loving Husband and Devoted Son.”
“Passionate about serving his Lord and Community, he was always making sure people felt loved and respected,” the statement continued. “He’ll leave his family and friends a true example of one who unconditionally loves.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Hawaii Police Officer Bronson Kaliloa, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Officer Bronson Kaliloa, your life mattered.