PAIA - A Maui police officer became caught on a fleeing suspect's vehicle and was dragged 15 to 20 feet before he was able to free himself late Friday night, police reported Saturday evening.
Officer Stuart Kunioka was taken by ambulance to Maui Memorial Medical Center, where he was treated for a head bruise, a concussion, a scrape to his arm and pain to his body, police reported. The officer was treated and released.
Around 9:25 p.m. Friday, Kunioka had been investigating a traffic accident at the intersection of Hana Highway and Baldwin Avenue in Paia, according to police. The officer approached the driver's side door of the vehicle driven by Kula resident Cara Aquinde.
Police said Kunioka was speaking with Aquinde in an attempt to have her move her vehicle off the roadway when she allegedly accelerated away from him, causing him to become caught in the vehicle's driver's door.
"Officer Kunioka was dragged by the vehicle for approximately 15 to 20 feet before he was able to be released from the vehicle and causing him to fall onto the pavement, striking his head on the roadway," police reported.
Aquinde fled the scene, refusing to stop, police said. She had several passengers in the cab of her vehicle as well as three passengers in its bed.
Police said Aquinde sped away, driving recklessly and nearly causing several accidents with other vehicles. She stopped only after she crashed into a dirt embankment about two miles away from her confrontation with Kunioka, police reported.
A front-seat passenger in Aquinde's vehicle, Haiku resident Rowan G.K. Lee, aided Aquinde in initially fleeing from police, according to a police report.
"After they were confronted by police, it appeared Lee either reached down or leaned over to the driver's side of the vehicle and pushed Aquinde's right leg down, pressing on the accelerator pedal, all while yelling at Aquinde to flee and grabbing a hold of the steering wheel," police said.
It later appeared that Kunioka's traffic vest was caught on the driver's side mirror when the vehicle sped away, police said.
Aquinde was charged with assaulting a police officer, reckless endangering in the second degree, drunken driving, resisting an order to stop a motor vehicle, reckless driving, inattention to driving and other offenses. Her bail was set at $19,000. She remained confined Saturday evening at the Wailuku Police Station.
Lee was charged with assaulting a police officer, drunken driving, and consuming or possessing intoxicating liquor while being a passenger in a motor vehicle. He was released after posting $8,000 in bail.