Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 19, 2001

Chase begun on H-1 led to fatal gun battle

 •  Relatives stunned by H-2 shooting

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

The events that led to the shooting on the H-2 freeway that left one man dead and two officers wounded actually started on H-1 in Waipahu, Police Chief Lee Donohue and detectives said yesterday.

Levi Esperas died yesterday after being shot on the H-2 freeway.
The officers' recounting of Tuesday afternoon :

At almost 5 p.m., three officers — two on motorcycles and one in an unmarked car — were working on the H-1 freeway in the Waipahu area as part of the Hazardous Driver Program looking for flagrant violations of traffic laws.

The officer in the unmarked car observed a hazardous driver speeding and weaving in and out of traffic, and radioed to the motorcycle officers. The motorcycles tried to pull the van over, but the driver refused.

The car continued in the Honolulu direction on H-1 until it took Kamehameha Highway cutoff north. When the van got to the top of the cutoff on Kamehameha Highway it stopped.

When one of the motorcycle officers approached the van and tried to talk to the passengers, the van started up again, striking the officer and knocking him to the ground.

The van took off north on Kamehameha Highway and turned onto Ka Uka Boulevard, then turned north again onto the H-2 freeway and headed toward Mililani.

The three officers gave chase until they came upon the van stuck on a concrete barrier in the medial strip of H-2, about a mile north of Ka Uka Boulevard.

The van, with four occupants, apparently had attempted to make a U-turn.

A woman and two men got out of the van as the officers arrived, and "a scuffle ensued" when the officers attempted to apprehend the four suspects.

Levi Esperas, 27, who is believed to have been driving the van, fired a weapon, and police returned fire. One officer was badly wounded in his hand. The other officer was slightly wounded by birdshot in the face.

Esperas fled toward traffic lanes and fired a second shot at officers who had chased the other suspects across the freeway, and fire was again returned. Police fired at least 10 shots.

Esperas was treated by emergency medical crews on the scene and taken to Pali Momi Medical Center, where he died at 1:06 a.m. yesterday after at least two hours of surgery to repair a chest wound.

Jesse Ani, 28, and Samuel Hao, 29, the other male suspects, were arrested at the scene, taken to Pearl City substation and booked.

The female, Esperas' wife, Bernadette La'a, 26, also know as Bernadette O'ili, fled into a brushy area and eluded capture until she was spotted by a motorist on the freeway shoulder early yesterday.