HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow/Gray News) - In a shocking series of events Sunday, a 69-year-old man facing eviction is accused of stabbing his landlord, fatally shooting two Honolulu police officers who were responding to the scene and then apparently setting a raging fire that destroyed at least seven homes and damaged others in an affluent community on the slopes of Diamond Head.
In a news conference Sunday afternoon, a visibly shaken Police Chief Ballard identified those killed as: Officers Tiffany Enriquez, a seven-year veteran of the force and Kaulike Kalama, a nine-year veteran of the force.
As Ballard spoke to reporters, her voice shook with emotion as she fought back tears.
“On behalf of the men and women of the Honolulu Police Department, we extend our deepest condolences,” she said. “I knew each one of them very personally.”
The rampage rocked a state unaccustomed to violence and left many in disbelief.
“This is a family and people are grieving,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell told reporters.
Ballard identified the suspect as Jerry Hanel, and authorities believe he died when the home he was in went up in flames.
His remains have not yet been located, but Ballard said processing the scene could take several more days.
Court documents show Hanel has a history of erratic behavior and making false 911 reports. His attorney said he had delusions that he was being tracked by the FBI.
Ballard said he had no permits to own firearms.
Meanwhile, two people ― both women ― remain unaccounted for in the wake of the day’s events. Their identities have not been released.
The chaos at the gateway to Hawaii’s no. 1 tourist destination all began about 9 a.m. when first responders were called to a home on Hibiscus Drive for a report of a stabbing.
Authorities said the suspect allegedly stabbed his landlord who had apparently been trying to evict him. He then allegedly opened fire on responding officers in his driveway.
Witnesses saw injured officers being dragged from the home. One bystander said rescuers could be seen performing CPR on an officer in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
Bystanders also told HNN that they believed at least one other person on the property was stabbed. Authorities did not immediately have information on the two stabbing victims.
After ambushing the officers with gunfire, the suspect wasn’t done yet.
He’s accused of setting fire to the home he was in. Those flames spread quickly to several nearby properties as firefighters struggled to gain access to the site amid the active police investigation.
In one video obtained by HNN, desperate residents can be seen using garden hoses to try to douse the flames nearing their homes.
In addition to the seven homes that were destroyed ― reduced to all but rubble ― several more sustained significant damage. The American Red Cross is helping the affected families and an emergency shelter for the victims has been opened at Waikiki Elementary.
“It was just a tragic unfolding of events,” said resident Eric Crispin, who watched first responders rush to the scene from the rooftop of a nearby condominium.
He said as at least 20 police cars responded to the scene, he started to see smoke pouring from a home and called 911.
Within minutes, he said, “the fire just raged and spread."
Earlier in the day, Caldwell called the shooting an “unprecedented tragedy” for Honolulu.
“I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of the two officers as well as the entire Honolulu Police Department," he said.
A police presence remains at the scene, where scores of firefighters are monitoring hotspots.
When the fires were at their height, flames and thick smoke could be seen for miles.
Residents say the crime scene was chaotic.
“The first police car came and subsequently the other police cars arrived and then, this street just became a thoroughfare,” resident Brant Kelsey said.
The two officers fatally shot at the home were initially taken in extremely critical condition to the Queen’s Medical Center.
Dozens of police officers, along with the police chief, were seen arriving at the hospital as the patients were transported from the Diamond Head scene.
The officers who arrived at the hospital were visibly shaken.
Several were crying, and Ballard could be seen hugging those arriving at the emergency room.
Pastor Wayne Surface, of Ohana Baptist Church, said the family of one of the officers killed is a member of his congregation who he’s known for many years.
“They’re hurt. They’re not sure why this happened. They’re looking to the lord to provide comfort at this time,” he said.
He describes one of the officers who was killed as a “good man.”
“The family has a record of serving the community,” he said.
The condition of the landlord who was stabbed was not immediately available, but one witness said she had been stabbed in the leg.
“She was screaming, she was like get me out of here,” said Ian Felix, who ran to help the woman.
“She was really scared of what happened to her because of that person. The escalation went from a stab wound to a fire and then the two officers. It’s really sad."
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