Eyewitness Account of Deadly Chaos That Left Two Officers Dead in a Diamond Head Neighborhood
Senior editor Don Wallace’s first-person account about the morning on Hibiscus Drive when police officers were shot and fire spread from house to house.
Photo: Courtesy of Tom Paseka via Twitter
Two Honolulu police officers have been killed and five homes destroyed on Diamond Head Sunday morning. According to officials, it began around 9 a.m. when police say 69-year-old Jerry Hanel allegedly stabbed a person and shot at officers who reported to the scene on Hibiscus Drive. A fire at the house then spread. At a news conference Sunday, Honolulu police chief Susan Ballard identified the officers as Tiffany Enriquez and Kaulike Kalama. “I’m deeply saddened to report the tragic loss of two of HPD’s finest in a senseless and selfish act,” Ballard said, visibly shaken by the double killing of the two officers. She had supervised both at the receiving desk and described them as “like my kids.”
Enriquez, a seven-year veteran of the force, was assigned to the Waikīkī district. Kalama, a nine-year veteran, was assigned to East Honolulu. Both officers are parents and yesterday friends, mourners and community members contributed to makeshift memorials at the Waikīkī substation and HPD headquarters near the wall that lists the name of all the fallen officers.
HONOLULU Magazine’s senior editor Don Wallace was in the neighborhood when it went into lockdown. Here is what he saw.
My wife, Mindy, and I were finishing breakfast around 9 a.m. when a warbling chorus of sirens resonated through our porch. A moment later, a deep, loud bang rang through. We had grown used to sounds that resemble gunshots, thanks to Hawai‘i Five-O filming in the Kapi‘olani Park area adjoining our Hibiscus Drive neighborhood. But this was different. Shotgun, I said. Mindy disagreed, saying it similar to a sound we had heard two nights before of a truck door slamming.
A minute passed as we tried to read the paper.
We’re trying to ignore this, she said. Mindy is a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
I decided to check as the sirens had hit a crescendo we’d not heard since 8:44 a.m. on Sept. 11 in New York City. In the street I met our neighbor across the street, Pat Cooper, former head of the University of Hawai‘i math department and a markswoman.
“Did you hear that?” she asked. “That was a shotgun.”
We looked down Hibiscus Drive at several police cars with lights flashing. We decided to take Diamond Head Road. We saw more police cars at the four-way stop at Poni Moi Road. Approaching from the back side seemed more likely to give us a better vantage point. We were 100 yards from the intersection when loud shouting came from Hibiscus Drive. “Come out with your hands up!”
We heard it twice. Then, a barrage of 30 rounds, which I recognized as a 9mm by the crisp snap.
I’d just started to video the scene and dropped behind a car, going down to the pavement. My neighbor stayed up but backed away. “OK,” she said, “I’ve seen enough.”
We returned the way we came as the sounds of chaos mounted behind us. At our dead end at the intersection of Hibiscus Drive and Coconut Street we found empty police cars. We took shelter as more shots popped down the street. Cooper headed down the street as Mindy called her back. There was another round of shots. A cop turned and yelled for us to take shelter. A Coconut Street neighbor, Jason, joined us behind a wall.
My wife, Mindy, saw police drag a body away and start chest compressions. Another neighbor, Stuart, texted with someone across the street from the 3015 Hibiscus Drive, a beautiful classic 1920s cottage. He relayed that they said there was a hostage and several police officers shot. An officer escorted a neighbor, Bridget, from her house, four away from 3015. We called her over. She had been evacuated, having just returned to Honolulu after taking care of her daughter who was in a serious accident.
photo: Don Wallace
We headed up to our deck upstairs for a better view. Information flooded in, but accuracy is dubious. But we all recognized the name Yarda: the tall, pale and lately very disturbing Czech who’s been renting at 3015. Yarda is what we called him, but it had been transcribed as Jarga from Jargoslav Hanel, though he went by the name Jerry. Hanel had been in the neighborhood for more than 10 years. His apartment was at the end of a steep makai driveway. About 10 years ago, I remember an hourslong conversation with him at a July 4 block association barbecue where he brought and proudly cooked bratwurst. Recently we heard he had been menacing to people, including our previous tenant.
The landlady, Lois Cain, lived on the Mainland. They were even described as friends. But as time dragged on and he became more erratic—especially after his dog died and she would not allow a new pet—neighbors allegedly told her he was making them uncomfortable, even alarmed.
What we didn’t know until we saw the news reports Sunday night that he’d been served multiple temporary restraining orders by neighbors. And that an eviction order had been issued with a court date coming up Jan. 27, which many believed he was going to lose. Or that he had a gun or guns and rounds of ammunition.
Hibiscus Drive and Coconut Street is a cohesive, friendly, old school enclave. It was known as The Stables when my wife’s grandfather, Lawrence Kang, bought our house in 1950. It was considered too far from town and too fragrant with the manure from the horses kept at the end of Kapi‘olani Park. Only lately had there been tension over noise from new homeowners’ parties and a suspected Airbnb that brought in dozens of visitors.
The neighborhood was still determinedly gracious, such that Hanel’s landlady even tried to get him legal help after he was arrested in 2005. Another neighbor tried to get a lawyer on the block to represent him in the eviction. But that person, we heard, had seen him up close and found him scary, bad news.
Meanwhile, for Bridget and us, the street was becoming engulfed in flames.
Just before 10:30 a.m. on Facebook
By now, the view from upstairs was beyond belief. A raging fire was eating its way rapidly down the street toward us. We recognized our neighbor’s houses and called out their names. Ellen Farmer Freeman’s home, which is next door to 3015, was going—the Farmers are the oldest family on the block with the Kangs. From our upstairs window we tracked the fire with a neighbor whose house was also being threatened. We saw flames kicking up. We saw no firefighters or water sprays and assumed it was because of the rounds we could hear cooking off in the fire—a horde of ammunition. Many sounded like firecrackers. Or maybe they were firecrackers. Texts were flooding in again but we didn’t see a news flash on TV after more than two hours.
It was a sleepy Sunday and so I took to social media to do ad hoc reporting. Then power went out all over the neighborhood.
The flames were licking at Bridget’s house as she watched while texting her husband who’s on a plane. Earlier, Bridget called our neighbor and dear friend, who was at work, to let her know that her house was on fire.
Bridget went out to check on her house. A SWAT team member escorted her so she could see it was saved, if scorched. Soon, a heavily armed officer was at our locked door, coming to verify that Hanel wasn’t holding us hostage. It wasn’t over yet. The next hours were both anticlimactic and alarming. We were trapped, with three SWAT team members at our steps and corner where they had established a perimeter. They were good guys. They refused our offers of water, energy bars and pie.
10:53 a.m. on Twitter
The entire neighborhood was evacuated except for us and two neighbors above us on Diamond Head. By 5 p.m., the fire was out and we negotiated a brief one-hour exit from the security perimeter to catch our breath and borrow a power bank for our dead phones. Our friends, journalists themselves, insisted on feeding us dinner. We returned home but the house was pitch black. Earlier, I had dug out those hurricane solar lamps we have never used and one actually worked. Numerous texts came in offering us places to stay.
We lay in bed with our phones catching up family on the Mainland, especially our son and his wife. Not a lot of sleep was had.
11:36 a.m. on Twitter
We’re watching fires finally being addressed 3 houses, Classic Hawaiian 1920s style, engulfed. Shooter probably incinerated but no telling so lockdown continues @honolulumag neighbor watching flames reach her house, it caught fire but was saved pic.twitter.com/2P4gB7jRqk— Don Wallace (@don212wallace) January 19, 2020
By 6 a.m. Monday, we heard police teams arriving so we took lukewarm showers and headed downstairs. Mindy contacted her old friend and neighbor John Farmer, who relayed the story of his sister, Ellen Farmer Freeman. Later, Mindy reached Freeman and her neighbor across the street, Jen Tema. Both are wonderful people, caring mothers who have worked to keep Hibiscus Drive special and safe. But neither, it’s safe to say, ever imagined they’d walk into what happened when Lois Cain told Freeman she was going to tell Hanel he was being evicted. I’m not afraid of him, Cain said, according to Freeman.
They heard screams. Freeman and her husband, Russell, headed in and said they found Hanel beating the upstairs tenant with a spiked gardening tool. Freeman said she told Hanel to stop but he kept hitting the woman with his fists. Freeman, her husband and Tema—who left her kids in her house and crossed the street—took the woman away. She was bleeding and told them Cain was in Hanel’s apartment. Freeman and Tema say they started back as police started going down the driveway. They heard a blast and saw a police officer thrown backward.
More police arrived. Then, the home went up in flames. Shots rang out, either ammunition heating up or Hanel shooting, with police also firing. Emergency responders, the city estimates 200, enveloped the neighborhood.
Hibiscus Drive has a number of right of ways dating back centuries. They’re now called “surfer paths” that lead uphill and laterally, threading through the neighborhood. The steep downill slop behind the makai houses is thick with shrubbery.
As flames consumed the adjoining houses on Hibiscus Drive and Diamond Head Road, no one saw any sign of Hanel. Many believed he had died in the fire, however, Honolulu police chief Ballard said they would continue to search for him until his remains are found. Monday morning, the ruins of the home were still too hot to enter.
Just before 12:30 p.m. on Instagram
Police officers we saw were notably more tense. It seemed the security perimeter was tighter, leading some neighbors to the suspicion that Hanel, a seemingly frail 69-year-old, had some how eluded the dragnet and crawled up the slopes of Diamond Head—the most iconic landmark of Hawai‘i, now associated with one of the most horrific police killings in decades.
As for Hanel, another mystery haunts those who knew him for years. “What happened to the fun Yarda my kids grew up with?” asked an anguished father who had lived across the street for 14 years until he moved. “He’d dress up in costumes for Thanksgiving and Halloween parties. What do I tell my kids? He just began to change and got so dark and paranoid until he was a different Yarda.”