Police officer’s heroism honored

MPD officer William Cleghorn II crawled into burning apartment to pull a man to safety

Lahaina patrol officer William Cleghorn II is congratulated Thursday by Maui County Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura, who presented him with a council resolution thanking him for his courage and bravery in rescuing a man from a burning Honokowai apartment. The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photos

WAILUKU — Lahaina patrol officer William Cleghorn II had to turn away and take a couple of deep breaths as thick black smoke and heat hit him when he kicked open the door to a burning Honokowai apartment.

“The smoke was too thick,” Cleghorn said.

Then he crawled into the apartment, pulled a man off a couch and dragged him out to safety.

Cleghorn was recognized Thursday for his bravery in saving the man’s life.

“The community wants to say thank you,” said Matt Stevenson, vice president of the Maui Crime Stoppers board of directors.

Lahaina patrol officer William Cleghorn II poses with Chief Tivoli Faaumu (right) and Lahaina patrol Capt. David Silva after Cleghorn was recognized Thursday for his bravery in rescuing a man from a burning Honokowai apartment last month.

During the ceremony in the chief’s conference room at Hale Makai police headquarters in Wailuku, Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu presented Cleghorn with a Maui Crime Stoppers act of bravery plaque.

Faaumu said he has been asked why police officers do what they do.

“The reason why we do that is because of who we are,” Faaumu said. “He did a great job.”

“You represent the department very well out there,” he told Cleghorn.

Cleghorn also was presented with a Maui County Council resolution thanking him “for putting yourself in harm’s way every day to keep our community safe.”

“You make us proud,” said Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura.

State Rep. Lynn DeCoite rescheduled a flight to Oahu so she could deliver a commendation from the state House of Representatives, along with Molokai purple sweet potatoes from her L&R Farms.

“It’s good these guys get the recognition they deserve,” DeCoite said.

Cleghorn was at the Lahaina Police Station when the fire was reported at 2:09 a.m. July 20 at Sunset Terrace Apartments. Someone was reported to be in the burning apartment.

“So we drove there really fast,” Cleghorn said.

His beat partner, officer Rod Corso, was already there when Cleghorn arrived within minutes to see smoke coming from the top of the door of the third-floor apartment.

“We were knocking,” he said. “Nobody was answering.”

Corso kicked the door four times before Cleghorn took over to kick it open, letting out thick black smoke.

The 41-year-old occupant, who had been asleep on the couch, woke up and started yelling when he heard the officers kicking the door.

The man couldn’t get up from the couch, so Cleghorn made his way in on hands and knees to rescue the man.

The man was distraught and sweating heavily, Cleghorn said, but seemed to recover quickly.

Firefighters arrived after the man had been rescued to treat him and extinguish the fire, which started in the area of the kitchen stove.

“The fire captain said it was good we got there so fast; he would have died otherwise,” Cleghorn said.

He said an air conditioner above the man was melted.

“It’s always good to save somebody and be able to benefit somebody positively,” Cleghorn said. “That’s what we sign up for.”

Cleghorn, who has been a police officer for almost four years, is a 2011 graduate of Seabury Hall. He also attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo and the University of Hawaii Maui College.

Cleghorn said he wanted to enlist in the military, as both his grandfathers and his Marine brother did, but he didn’t want to leave Maui.

So he applied to be a police officer, starting off in the Wailuku Patrol Division and working for a year in the Hana Patrol Division before moving to the Lahaina Patrol Division in 2017.

He is named after his late grandfather, longtime Makawao veterinarian William Cleghorn.

“I do what I do cause I love Maui,” said Cleghorn, who was born and raised Upcountry. “I plan on staying here forever. I’ll continue to do it.”

Family and Friends of Agriculture Maui sponsored the Maui Crime Stoppers award, also making a donation to the nonprofit group.

Donations to Maui Crime Stoppers can be mailed to P.O. Box 2580, Wailuku 96793.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.