A Hilo jury Thursday found a 32-year-old Hilo man guilty of first-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault in the shootings of two police officers Jan. 2, 2013.
Keaka Martin was also convicted of two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a separate felony, carrying a loaded firearm on a street or highway, illegal place to keep a pistol and second-degree reckless endangering. He was found not guilty of altering the identification marks of a firearm.
Martin appeared emotionless as the verdict was read, as he did throughout the course of the 11-week trial. He faces a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole for the first-degree attempted murder conviction.
Sentencing is set for 9 a.m. June 20 before Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura.
Martin was found guilty of first-degree attempted murder for the shooting of Hilo Patrol Officer Joshua Gouveia in the parking lot of the Pono Place, the former Green Onion cocktail lounge, on Kilauea Avenue in Hilo. He was also charged with attempted first-degree murder for the shooting of Hilo Patrol Officer Garrett Hatada, but was found guilty of the lesser included offense of first-degree assault.
Both officers suffered wounds to their lower extremities and have since returned to duty. Both also testified in the trial.
Kawika Paulino, an acquaintance of Martin’s who was fishing in Wailoa Pond when the shooting occurred, testified Martin jumped into the back seat of Paulino’s sport utility vehicle after the gunfire occurred and ordered him to drive out of the parking lot. He said Martin got out by the Hilo Lagoon Centre.
An extensive manhunt ensued and Martin was taken into custody the following day at the East Palai Street home where his sister lived at the time. As the police Special Response Team — the department’s SWAT unit — closed in, Martin shot himself in the chest with a 9mm pistol, but survived.
Deputy Prosecutor Darien Nagata said the state is “pleased with the verdict.”
“The police are here to protect us and the jury recognized that. Justice is served,” she said. “… We believe there was enough evidence to support a verdict of attempted murder in the first-degree for both (officers) but the jury has evidentiary access and we accept their decision.”
County Prosecutor Mitch Roth said the verdict sends a message “the community is not going to tolerate these kinds of actions.”
“People break the law and not only the prosecutors and police but the people will hold them accountable,” he said.
Martin’s court-appointed attorney, Steve Strauss, said his client will “explore all his potential avenues of appeal.”
“Obviously, he is disappointed with the return of the verdict,” he said. “There’s certainly seems to be an inconsistency based on the state’s theory in that they argued … both officers or neither officers (were shot) with alleged intent to kill. It’s hard to imagine that Mr. Martin intended to kill one officer and not the other … based on the circumstances of the incident.”
Strauss argued during trial neither officer could place Martin at the scene nor identify him as the individual who shot from beneath a modified van in the darkened parking lot. He also argued there was no intent to kill, as the shooter fired only three shots and had the opportunity to kill the wounded officers but didn’t.
The 41-year-old Hatada and 32-year-old Gouveia were in the courtroom gallery when the verdict was read, as was Gouveia’s wife, Emmalyn. A number of other police officers were there and several offered their congratulations.
Afterward, Gouveia, who still has bullet fragments lodged in his hip and pelvis, expressed “happiness that we’re over this.”
“I believe the jury did the best they could with the information they had,” he said.
Also present was Martin’s mother, who appeared close to tears and declined to comment.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.