Chief: Officers’ actions ‘justified’ in shooting
Suspect, who was shot to death, drew a handgun, he said
WAILUKU — Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu said preliminary reports show officers followed procedures in the fatal shooting of a fugitive who pulled out a handgun as officers were trying to apprehend him Sunday morning in a Wailuku neighborhood.
Kaulana “Toji” Reinhardt, 26, who had crashed a stolen red Toyota Tacoma truck in the front yard of a house, appeared to be complying with officers’ orders before he reached for the handgun while struggling with an officer, Faaumu said.
“That’s what caused the officers to fire,” Faaumu said Monday after he was briefed on the preliminary investigation into the shooting. “The officers’ actions were justified.”
Police said shots were exchanged and Reinhardt was hit. Officers began efforts to revive Reinhardt until medics arrived. He was transported to Maui Memorial Medical Center, where he died of his injuries, police said.
Police had been looking for Reinhardt, who was wanted on numerous arrest warrants, including one for first-degree attempted murder, with bail set at $1 million.
At a news conference Monday afternoon, acting Assistant Chief Clyde Holokai said police had put together a strike team to try to find and arrest Reinhardt after he became the subject of the attempted murder investigation “because of the threat that he posed to the community.”
Police were trying to locate Reinhardt “before he could hurt anybody else,” Holokai said. “Unfortunately, yesterday happened,” he said.
Holokai said police had been receiving information from confidential informants as well as people who were close to Reinhardt that “he was carrying a gun and he was going to shoot it out with the police if he was ever stopped.”
“Unfortunately, he made that decision yesterday,” Holokai said. “There was no real winners in this situation.”
According to a law enforcement source, the warrant for Reinhardt’s arrest on attempted murder and other charges was issued after a woman reported that Reinhardt had sent her a text message Dec. 14 with a photo of himself holding a firearm and saying he had put a “hit” on her. In the message, Reinhardt also said he was going to the woman’s house in Makawao in the morning.
In the early-morning hours of Dec. 15, the woman called 911 to report a vehicle being driven slowly outside her residence and seeing the driver’s arm holding a handgun outside the window. The woman reported hearing three shots.
Court records show she had obtained a three-year restraining order against Reinhardt that expires Aug. 16, 2020.
Reinhardt also was wanted on probation-violation warrants, with bail totaling $120,000, in four criminal cases, according to court records.
Police had been looking for a 2000 red Toyota Tacoma truck that was reported stolen after last being seen Thursday in the parking lot of Maui Gardens in Kihei.
At 10:35 a.m. Sunday, an officer saw a red Tacoma in the Makawao area and determined it was stolen, acting Assistant Chief Ricky Uedoi said at the news conference. As the officer was trying to catch up with the truck, which was in front of another vehicle, it turned on another street and ended up traveling to Kahului. Police located it about 10 minutes later heading toward Kahului on the right shoulder of Hana Highway, Uedoi said.
Officers didn’t pursue the truck until it was determined that Reinhardt was the driver, Uedoi said. Then officers began saturating the Kahului area, following the truck on Puunene Avenue as it turned left onto Wakea Avenue, then continued onto Kamehameha Avenue, Maui Lani Parkway and Kuihelani Highway, Uedoi said.
At the intersection of Puunene and Maui Veterans Highway, the truck appeared to be turning right toward Kihei but instead went around a traffic island and made a left turn toward Kahului, colliding with a vehicle that was turning left, Uedoi said.
From there, the truck traveled on Puunene Avenue to Wakea Avenue, then onto Kaahumanu Avenue to Wailuku town. In Wailuku, the truck turned right on North Market Street and went through the Wailuku municipal parking lot, turning onto Church Street, then left onto Main Street and right onto Market Street. The truck headed south on South Market Street to Kaohu Street, where the shooting occurred.
“The pursuit probably lasted about 12 minutes,” Uedoi said.
On Kaohu Street, the stolen truck ended up against a wall with its front left tire on its rim, Holokai said.
From the time officers first made contact with Reinhardt to the time he was down and handcuffed, about 23 seconds passed, said Detective Matthew Bigoss.
At the news conference, Bigoss played real time and slowed-down versions of video from the body camera of one police officer. Audio was removed “due to harsh language,” Bigoss said, and some portions were blurred.
Part of the video shows Reinhardt out of the truck as the first officer tries to make contact with the suspect, who appears to be going back toward the truck, Bigoss said. As the officer and Reinhardt struggle, a pistol is seen in Reinhardt’s right hand.
Reinhardt is seen raising the firearm about the time the first shots are fired, Bigoss said. He said Reinhardt has the pistol pointed at the officer and is in a shooting stance when a second officer begins to fire and Reinhardt drops to the ground. A silver-and-black handgun goes under Reinhardt’s body as he goes down, Bigoss said.
Holokai said the handgun was recovered, but police were withholding information about the make and model while the investigation continues.
Police also were still investigating how many shots were fired, Holokai said.
One neighbor reported hearing about 10 shots.
Police said one officer suffered minor injuries that didn’t require medical treatment. No other officers or bystanders were injured, police said.
The two officers — one with three years of experience and the other with 15 years of experience — are on paid administrative leave, which is standard while police conduct criminal and internal investigations into the shootings, said Maui police spokesman Lt. Gregg Okamoto.
Police closed a portion of South Market and Kaohu streets for nearly seven hours while investigating, reopening the road at 5:45 p.m. Sunday.
A motorcyclist who went through the police roadblock was arrested, Faaumu said.
Speaking at the news conference, Faaumu said the officer-involved shooting “was a sobering reminder of the dangers of police work.”
“Any time there is a loss of life, it is a tragedy, and the Maui Police Department takes it seriously,” he said. “Our heartfelt condolences to all of those affected by the incident.
“Please be assured our officers are here to protect everyone with integrity and compassion, as demonstrated by the action of yesterday.”
Speaking outside the news conference, Faaumu said he hoped what happened wouldn’t leave residents fearful.
“Yes, there are those that are more bold and totally disrespectful of the safety of everybody else, including law enforcement,” Faaumu said. “This individual came into our radar because of an incident he took upon himself, resulting in the arrest warrant.
“But as far as Maui being more dangerous now than before, I don’t think so. Our streets are still safe. We’re doing everything we can to make sure it’s safe.”
According to the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center, Reinhardt’s criminal history dates to 2012 and includes convictions for violating a temporary restraining order, attempted first-degree criminal property damage, resisting an order to stop a motor vehicle, reckless driving, second-degree burglary, unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, theft of a credit card, abuse and second-degree terroristic threatening.
Reinhardt was arrested in 2015 after driving a stolen vehicle from Lahaina to Kahului at speeds of 60 to 100 mph while trying to evade police. When the truck got into a minor accident and ran out of gas on Papa Place in Kahului, Reinhardt ran before he was apprehended by police.
In September, he was sentenced to four years’ probation and a one-year jail term for breaking into his girlfriend’s car and violating a court order for protection. He was released early from jail Sept. 17 to enter a long-term residential substance abuse treatment program on Oahu. A bench warrant for his arrest was issued Oct. 2 after he reportedly failed to complete the program and didn’t inform his probation officer of his whereabouts.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.