A police officer who responded to provide backup to two officers shot in the line of duty early last year in Hilo provided jurors his recollection of events Monday in Hilo Circuit Court.
Testifying in the attempted murder trial of the alleged shooter, 32-year-old Keaka Martin of Hilo, Officer Keith Nacis said that he responded to a radio call requesting backup on the evening of Jan. 2, 2013, by Officer Joshua Gouveia. Nacis said he arrived at the parking lot of the Pono Place on Kilauea Avenue, at the site of the former Green Onion cocktail lounge, at about 8:40 p.m.
Nacis said that as he pulled into the parking lot, Gouveia motioned for him to stop, and then walked toward the driver’s side window of Nacis’ Toyota 4-Runner.
“He informed me that he received a report of somebody hiding underneath a van and he pointed to it, so I looked,” Nacis said. “I had my headlights on but I couldn’t see anyone under the vehicle. So I rolled up my window, turned off my engine, turned my key off, left my headlights on ’cause I know that they have, like a timer. And I had my personal flashlight, ’cause it was pretty dark. So I had it on. I exited my vehicle and went toward the (van).”
Nacis said his headlights switched off “30 seconds to a minute” after he got out of his sport-utility vehicle and he, Gouveia, and Officer Garrett Hatada walked toward the van.
“As I got closer, maybe 5 to 7 feet away from the vehicle, then I could see someone, and I said to myself, ‘Oh damn, there is someone underneath,’” he said. “I could see the left portion of someone’s shoulder, the upper arm area. I was shining (the flashlight) at it and I could see tattoos, as well.”
“… Can you describe the tattoos?” asked Deputy Prosecutor Darien Nagata.
“… It might have been circular with little triangles, like a tribal tattoo,” Nacis replied.
Nacis said he went to the back of the van, that Gouveia was behind him and he didn’t know where Hatada went.
“I heard Officer Gouveia state, ‘Let me see your hands. Let me see your hands,’” Nacis recalled. “And then, immediately after that, he shouted, like at the top of his lungs, ‘Don’t reach for anything. Don’t reach for anything.’”
“And then what?” Nagata asked.
“And then when I was about to kneel, that’s when I heard the first loud bang,” Nacis stated.
“… And then what?”
“And then I immediately heard maybe three or four after that. But after the first one, I turned around and I got on the radio and I informed dispatch, ‘Shots fired. Shots fired.’ And I was trying to look for cover, but there was no cover, ’cause there’s like, this grassy … area with no cover. So I’m looking and I draw my weapon. And I turn around and just focused towards that area where the black vehicle is.
“… I see Officer Hatada limping, so I immediately went on the radio and I say, ‘Officer down. Officer down.’ And then after that, Officer Hatada lay down. I see Officer Gouveia also lay down on his back. … And then Officer Gouveia went on the radio and said, ‘I’m hit.’”
Nacis, who did not discharge his firearm, said he maintained his position, “providing cover in case that person (the shooter) is still in the area,” until ambulances and “just about everybody in Hilo” arrived.
Steve Strauss, Martin’s court-appointed defense attorney, has deferred cross examination of Nacis until April 1, when the defense portion of the trial is expected to be underway. He’s also deferred cross examination of Gouveia and Hatada, who have already testified for the state. Strauss said the deferrals are related to a motion he filed requesting Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura order prosecutors to disclose to the defense notes of interviews of state witnesses conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office.
Nagata told the judge Monday that the requested information is “work product” and therefore not subject to discovery rules.
Nakamura ordered Nagata to turn the documents over to the court. He didn’t set a hearing on the motion, but indicated it could happen today, time permitting.
The trial continues today at 9 a.m.
Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaii tribune-herald.com.