NAWILIWILI — A 21-year-old Kalaheo man was shot and killed Friday night at Nawiliwili during a confrontation with four police officers.
Friends of the victim identified the man as Mason Saio.
On Saturday, a small bouquet of flowers in a white, five-gallon bucket and an open can of beer were placed against a stone wall along the Nawiliwili Harbor jetty, which marked the spot where Saio was shot.
According to county officials, the incident began shortly after 10:40 p.m. while Kauai Police Department officers were conducting a “routine check for criminal activity” in the Nawiliwili jetty area.
The officers came upon a gathering of adults and juveniles, including Saio, who was in a parked vehicle holding two firearms.
The officers told Saio to drop his weapons, according to county officials.
Saio allegedly threw one of the guns out of the car but held on to the other.
The officers repeatedly told Saio to drop his weapon, but he pointed the firearm toward the officers, according to county officials said.
“To prevent their death or serious bodily injury, the officers fired their weapons to stop the threat,” a county news release states.
Saio died following the shooting. None of the witnesses and police officers at the scene were injured.
Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry confirmed the guns fired during the incident were the police officers’ standard issue .40 caliber firearms.
The officers involved in the shooting were at the scene for about an hour before they were transported to the police station, according to Perry.
“It was a gun battle, is what it was,” said Tommy Neuhoff, a resident at Banyan Harbor Resort.
Neuhoff said he heard two rounds of gunshots but initially thought the gunshots were fireworks. In all, he estimates about 15 shots were fired during the incident. KPD was unable to confirm how many shots were fired.
Before his death, Saio was scheduled to stand trial on Aug. 26 for the robbery of a Koloa Chevron and an assault on the gas station’s late-night clerk in January 2012.
He was tried in December 2012, but Judge Kathleen Watanabe declared a mistrial when a 5th Circuit jury could not produce a verdict.
At the scene of the shooting Saturday, a group of Saio’s close friends and family members gathered at a makeshift memorial near the end of the jetty to remember his “infectious smile and stubborn but caring personality.”
“You could say so much about Mason,” said Asia Villatora, the mother of Saio’s two children, as she gazed out at the setting sun from the bay. “He was such a hard head but he was a good person with a good heart. I only want to remember all of the good times.”
In the distance, she pointed out the Nawiliwili Lighthouse, where Saio took her on their first date nearly four years ago.
“He was such an awesome person,” Villatora said. “He always tried to make me laugh and was the only one to make me feel comfortable in my own skin. He was always there in his own way — sometimes he wasn’t there physically, but I could feel it.”
The officers involved in the incident have been placed on a mandatory three-day administrative leave as KPD’s investigation continues.
“Our condolences go out to the family and friends of the deceased,” Perry said in a statement. “I want to assure the public that this shooting will be investigated completely and vigorously.”
• Chris D’Angelo and Andrea Frainier contributed to this story.