A police officer shot in the line of duty early last year recounted the night it occurred to a jury Wednesday in Hilo Circuit Court.
Testifying in the attempted murder trial of the alleged shooter, 32-year-old Keaka Martin of Hilo, Officer Garrett Hatada said he and Officer Joshua Gouveia, who was also shot, went twice to the parking lot of the Pono Place on the evening of Jan. 2, 2013. The first time they went to the Kilauea Avenue site of the former Green Onion cocktail lounge was to investigate reports of gunshots heard nearby. The second, he said, was about 8:30 p.m. after a police dispatcher informed Hatada there was a report of “a guy hiding under one of the vehicles there.”
“According to dispatch, if I remember correctly, she said the RP (reporting party) sounded very scared and the line disconnected and they could not re-establish contact,” the 41-year-old Hatada, a 15-year police veteran, told the jury.
“Based on that, what were you thinking?” asked Deputy Prosecutor Darien Nagata.
“That when we went there earlier in the evening, we had scared someone into hiding from us. And I just thought that maybe they would have a warrant or an all-points bulletin and that’s why they were hiding,” Hatada answered.
Hatada said after he and Gouveia returned to the Pono Place parking lot, they parked their vehicles next to each other and he got out of his Toyota 4-Runner.
“At that point, Officer Gouveia indicated to me that he had seen someone hiding under one of the vehicles,” he said. “… It was very dark and I couldn’t tell which car he was pointing to.”
Hatada said he decided he and Gouveia “should get more backup before approaching the vehicle.” He said he called dispatch and Officer Keith Nacis arrived in a matter of minutes. He said he wanted to “use surprise” to approach the vehicle, which Hatada described as a “dark colored, lifted van type of vehicle.”
“The three of us walked toward the vehicle,” Hatada said. “I approached the driver side. … Officer Gouveia approached from the passenger side. At that time, I didn’t know where Officer Nacis approached from.”
Hatada testified his firearm was still holstered and the officers had their flashlights in hand.
“Initially when we approached, it (the flashlight) was off. We turned it on when we got to the vehicle,” he explained. “… I knelt down to confront the person who was hiding underneath. … I shone my light onto the person. At that point, I heard Officer Gouveia shout, ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it!’ At the same point, I see a male party … holding himself up on the chassis underneath the vehicle drop to the ground and start fumbling with his waistband. … I hear three gunshots.”
Momentarily overcome by emotion, Hatada paused and repeated: “I hear three gunshots.”
“When you hear the three gunshots, what happened?” Nagata inquired.
“… When I heard Officer Gouveia yell, ‘Don’t do it,’ I assumed there was a firearm involved,” Hatada replied. “I stood up and I turned at the same time. … I unholstered my weapon. I hear the three pops. I felt the pain to my legs. I proceeded away from the van. I don’t know how far away. I turned around and I fired back.”
“… You said you unholstered your firearm. Why didn’t you shoot at that point when you were at the vehicle?” Nagata queried.
“I was too close. I didn’t have an angle underneath the vehicle,” Hatada responded.
Hatada said he sought cover under the large banyan tree by the Pono Place and saw a car leave the parking lot before ambulances and other officers arrived.
Hatada, who sustained gunshot wounds to the left calf and right foot, was taken to Hilo Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery to stop the bleeding in his left leg. He showed the jury a scar on that leg he said was 10 inches long. He said he stayed four nights in the hospital and was unable to walk until issued crutches the day before his discharge.
He returned to duty in April, he said, adding he still occasionally experiences a “tingling, pins and needles” sensation because of nerve damage he sustained.
Gouveia, who suffered a gunshot wound to the upper left thigh, also returned to duty. He testified earlier.
Steve Strauss, Martin’s court-appointed attorney, deferred cross examination of both officers until the defense portion of the trial.
The trial continues at 9 a.m. today in Judge Greg Nakamura’s courtroom.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.