'They were like my kids': Police chief pays tribute to officers killed in Hawaii

Alex Woodward
Police outside a house in Honolulu where two officers were reported to have been shot: AP

A man threatened with eviction is accused of stabbing a woman and killing two police officers responding to the scene before he set a group of homes on fire, trapping himself and several other people in the flames.

On Sunday, police in the Diamond Head area of Honolulu, Hawaii responded to a 911 call from a woman seeking help after being stabbed in the leg.

As officers arrived, Jerry Hanel, 69, allegedly opened fire, killing Tiffany Enriquez, who had served with the Honolulu Police Department for seven years, and Kaulike Kalama, a nine-year veteran with the department.

Thick black smoke emerged from Hanel's home, and fire engulfed several other buildings and damaged others. Nearby residents used garden hoses to combat the flames as the officers' bodies were dragged away from the home to the street.

Honolulu police chief Susan Ballard said it will likely take several days to process the scene and recover remains. Police believe Hanel died inside the home.

A visibly shaken Chief Bollard held back tears as she described the scene to reporters on Sunday.

She said: "Our deepest condolences go out to the families ... [The department] grieves along with you and shares their loss."

Hanel is accused of assault, "multiple accounts of first-degree attempted murder" and two counts of first-degree murder for the killings of officers Enriquez and Kalama, she added.

"I really don't have any words", she said. "They were like my kids ... I knew each of them very personally."

She said Hanel likely used a long gun but does not have an active license to possess a weapon. The officers were wearing bullet-proof vests.

Recently released body-worn camera footage shows that at least one of the officers who were killed on Sunday had been dispatched to the shooting suspect's home in 2019. The footage shows Officer Enriquez visiting Hanel's home in Diamond Head, where he is warned against making false reports and threatened with future arrest.

Hanel's lawyer Jonathan Burge said the suspect has a history of mental instability and was facing eviction from his lower-level apartment. He told reporters that Hanel resisted mental health treatment despite recurring delusions that he was being monitored by the government.

He was scheduled to appear in court over his eviction this month, and he also was set to appear in court to face a misdemeanour charge after repeatedly calling 911.

Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell called Sunday's events an "unprecedented tragedy" in an area that last saw a police killing nearly 20 years ago. "This is a family and people are grieving."

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