A Hawaii handyman with a history of run-ins with police and neighbors faced eviction when he stabbed his landlord and killed two officers before the house he and two women were believed to be inside burned, authorities and neighbors said.
Police responding Sunday to a call for help at the location found a woman stabbed in the leg and resident Jaroslav “Jerry” Hanel began shooting, killing Officers Tiffany Enriquez, a seven-year veteran, and Kaulike Kalama, a nine-year veteran, Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said.
Police suspect Hanel, who was in his 60s, and two women who have not been identified were inside the house when it caught fire. They were presumed dead, and Ballard said it could take days for authorities to recover remains and process evidence.
The fire, which was just a few blocks from oceanfront high-rise buildings, spread, destroying seven homes and leaving others with fire or smoke damage.
The homeowner, Lois Cain, had recently sought the eviction of Hanel, who lived in the home for free in exchange for his work, according to court records and a lawyer who has represented him.
A neighbor told the Associated Press she saw Cain, who was suffering from knife wounds, being put into an ambulance. Her condition was not disclosed.
The normally peaceful neighborhood is at the far end of Waikiki Beach between the Honolulu Zoo and the famed Diamond Head State Monument, a volcanic crater that looms above Honolulu and is popular with tourists and hikers. A regional park is also nearby.
Ian Felix, a Honolulu resident and combat veteran with medical training, told the AP he happened to be walking by when he saw a woman lying on the ground with blood coming from her leg. He applied pressure until the first police officer arrived and put a tourniquet on it, Felix said. Moments later, two more officers arrived, and Felix said he then heard two gunshots.
He and the officer picked up the wounded woman and carried her into a neighbor’s garage across the street, he said.
Neighbors described Hanel as mentally disturbed.
Hawaii has some of the toughest gun laws in the U.S. Residents can’t buy firearms without permits approved by local police, who check databases to make sure applicants have not been convicted of felonies or misdemeanor crimes including assault or domestic violence.
People are also denied permits if they have been acquitted of crimes because of mental problems or have been diagnosed with significant mental, behavioral or emotional disorders.
“Defendant does NOT have a Rental Agreement to occupy the premises and Defendant has no ownership interest in said premises,” read a complaint for eviction that Cain filed last week in court. “Despite repeated demands, Defendant has failed and refused to vacate the premises.”
Attorney Jonathan Burge has represented Hanel since 2015 in disputes with neighbors, including temporary restraining orders that three obtained against him. Hanel, a native of the Czech Republic who used Czech interpreters in court, faced a hearing next week on a charge of misusing 911 services, Burge said Sunday.
Burge said he never knew Hanel to be violent but that “he’s kind of a quirky guy and had problems.” Hanel believed the government was watching him and tapping his phone, Burge said.
Cain was supportive of him in his disputes with neighbors, Burge said. But she wanted him to move out so she could move into the home, and their relationship also soured because Hanel’s dog had died and Cain wouldn’t let him get a new one.
“I know that she was trying to have him evicted because she was moving back to Hawaii and had to live there herself. So that’s kind of the extent of what was going on, but I heard she had just filed for the eviction on Friday,” Burge told KHON-TV. “Maybe she was serving it to him and it pushed him over the edge.”
Resident Dolores Sandvold said she heard screaming and gunshots and saw Cain being carried to an ambulance. She said she was led out of the area and that she had yet to be allowed back into her home.
Kailua resident John Farmer said the fire spread to his sister’s house, which burned down. He said neighbors were saying that law enforcement responded after a resident described as paranoid and threatening attacked the mother of a family who had been living upstairs.
Officials across the state began releasing statements about the deaths, with Gov. David Ige saying, “Our entire state mourns the loss of two Honolulu police officers killed in the line of duty this morning.”
Police closed several streets and asked the public to avoid the area.