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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted at 7:36 a.m., Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Two officers hurt, suspect dies in H-2 Freeway shooting

 •  Recent shootings involving police

By James Gonser and Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writers

A gun battle with suspects in a stolen van erupted on the H-2 Freeway during rush hour yesterday, leaving two police officers wounded — one seriously — and one of four suspects dead.

Police found a woman early this morning after searching with dogs and a night-vision equipped helicopter. Two other suspects were in custody.

The shootings occurred about a mile north of the Ka Uka Boulevard off-ramp just before 5 p.m. yesterday, but police released few details about the sequence of events last night. The freeway was shut down for hours.

The wounded suspect went into cardiac arrest and was resuscitated at the scene. He was in critical condition after surgery at Pali Momi Medical Center but died at 1 a.m. today.

The officers, both 32 and both nine-year veterans of the Honolulu Police Department, were at the Queen's Medical Center.

One of them, Robert Steiner, a motorcycle officer, was shot in the left hand, his condition described as guarded, but stable.

The other, Aaron Bernal, who was in an unmarked police car, was in good condition with a slight wound to the side of the face.

"They're both OK," Honolulu Police Department Assistant Chief Rafael Fajardo told reporters at the hospital.

Steiner's father, Robert Steiner Sr., of Honolulu, said late last night he had just learned of the shooting.

"When I found out, it was a little bit hard to believe," Steiner Sr. said.

He said his son, who was born on the Mainland and grew up on Moloka'i, had followed a childhood dream when he joined the Honolulu police force.

"He always wanted to be a police officer when he was small," Steiner said.

Though proud of his son, Steiner said he was always concerned that the officer could someday be hurt in the line of duty.

"You really don't know from one day to the next," he said.

Police Chief Lee Donohue went to the scene to oversee the investigation.

The battle began at about 4:50 p.m., minutes after officers ordered a white northbound van on the freeway to pull over to the center median for an apparent traffic violation or erratic driving, police said.

Two officers on motorcycles and an officer in an unmarked police car were on the freeway watching for traffic violators.

A struggle ensued between the police and one of the suspects, and another suspect pulled out a shotgun and fired at police, Assistant Chief Boisse Correa said.

The man with the shotgun was hit in the head and chest when one or more of the officers returned fire.

An aerial view of the scene along H-2 where Honolulu police were involved in a shootout with four suspects after they pulled over a white van in a routine traffic stop. A female suspect escaped.

Chopper 8 • Special to The Honolulu Advertiser

Police then broadcast "10-15" (officers need assistance), summoning every officer in the vicinity to the scene, Correa said.

When a 10-15 radio call is given, Correa said, "It's the worst case scenario for officers. But this is police work; it's what we do every day."

The wounded officers were taken by helicopter to Queen's.

Emergency Medical Services Field Supervisor Mandy Shiraki said that one officer, Steiner lost most of his hand.

Bernal, he said, had pellet wounds from the shotgun to his right side and face.

Both of the motorcycle officers were wearing bulletproof vests. It was not immediately known how many officers returned fire.

Any officer who fired shots was to be automatically relieved from active duty during a routine investigation by internal affairs.

Police closed all southbound and one of four northbound lanes of the freeway near Ka Uka Boulevard.

Commuters took two hours to make what is normally a 45-minute drive from town to Mililani at about 4:30 p.m., one motorist said.

The two other suspects, who were not wounded, were booked at the Pearl City substation. They were refusing to cooperate and had not yet been identified, police said.

Advertiser Staff Writer Walter Wright contributed to this report.