LIHUE — Even on a small island, police officers have to be on high alert.
“We enjoy the privilege of living in a safe and well-connected community, but crime still occurs every day on our island,” said Michael Contrades, Kauai Police Department deputy chief. “Responding officers have to be ready for anything, as the seemingly routine duties can lead to a dangerous situation.”
The FBI recently released its “2015 Statistics on Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted” report, which breaks down incidents by felonious deaths, accidental deaths and assaults. According to the report, 335 officers on Oahu and Maui were assaulted last year. Figures for the Big Island were not available.
On Kauai, there were 24 incidents of assault against officers last year, according to the Kauai Police Department. Thirteen of those incidents were assault in the first-degree, which is a class C felony, and punishable by up to five years in prison.
One example of a routine task taking a dangerous turn was in 2013 when two police officers attempted to serve a grand jury warrant to a man who was charged with first-degree negligent homicide after his car struck and killed a pedestrian.
Police say Robert Yount, who was 83 at the time, fired a shot at the officers after barricading himself in his room. The case reached a $1.1 million settlement in 2014.
In 2015, two Kauai men were arrested on charges of first-degree assault against a police officer.
On Sept. 29, 2015, three KPD officers found Ray Harada down a steep hillside at the end of North Waiakalua Road, leading to Pilaa Beach. When they tried to arrest him, Harada “recklessly and intentionally resisted by violently pulling and twisting” from officers, eventually pulling one of them down the hill with him, even after being Tasered, records showed.
The other officers were able to put Harada in handcuffs by connecting two sets of cuffs together in front of him, but Harada continued to twist and pull violently until he pulled another officer 20 feet into thick brush, records showed.
One officer continued to hold onto Harada even after sliding down the hillside, until Harada bit the officer’s right hand, records showed. He escaped. Officers sustained multiple injuries during the struggle including lacerations on arms and hands; bitten and gouged finger; bloody nose; and cuts to the right shin.
Harada was eventually arrested on Oct. 7, 2015, at Kahili Beach.
Earlier this month, Harada was sentenced to five years in prison on three counts of first-degree assault against a law enforcement officer, first-degree escape, and resisting arrest.
Another man facing first-degree assault against an officer charges is Richard Leibman, who is accused of injuring two officers while resisting arrest.
In early 2015, Leibman, also known as the “Jesus bandit,” was charged with burglary after he entered a home in Kilauea. Police later located him in a parking lot in Poipu. As he ran away, Leibman allegedly kicked officers and tried to scale a wall before being arrested.
Leibman’s case is still in court, and officials are waiting to hear the results of medical examination done by three doctors to determine his fitness to continue with trial. He will be back in court on Nov. 15 to discuss the findings.
In 2015, there were also 11 incidents of assault against an officer in the second-degree on Kauai, which is a misdemeanor and is punishable by 30 days in jail.
No officers in Hawaii were feloniously killed last year, according to the FBI report. The last time an officer was killed in the line of duty was in 2007, the report said.
Between 2006 and 2015, four police officers in Hawaii were accidentally killed while in the line of duty. The latest one was in 2012.
Forty-one police officers in 21 states were feloniously killed last year, according to the FBI report.