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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Driver robs police force of 'another hero'

 •  Honolulu police officers who have died in the line of duty since 1985

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Bad guys needed only one quick look at Officer Danny Padayao before they started entertaining fantasies about running from the cops.

Danny Padayao, 48, at 5 feet even, built a reputation for toughness and compassion.

Honolulu Police Dept. photo

At 5 feet even and a chunky 185 pounds, Padayao, a former Castle High School wrestler, running back and sprinter, was quicker and stronger than he looked. But his most powerful weapon was a smile that could disarm and a compassion that transformed troubled lives during 18 years with the police department.

He was the kind of cop who took in stray animals and pointed wayward kids in a better direction. Just Friday night, he was eating dinner with Officer Brian Cayetano at the Kane'ohe Zippy's when a young man began staring at Padayao.

"He says, 'You're Padayao, right?' Cayetano remembered yesterday. "He wanted to thank Danny for steering him the right way years ago. He had been in a gang when his brother died and his friend ended up in prison."

Padayao was laying down road flares at the scene of a two-car accident along Kamehameha Highway about 10:25 p.m. Monday near Johnson Road.

A suspected drunk driver speeding Kane'ohe-bound in a blue Chevrolet pick-up knocked Padayao into the path of a Kahuku-bound pick-up. Officer Frederick Apo rushed to Padayao and had his foot run over by a van.

Padayao was later pronounced dead at Castle Medical Center and became the 36th HPD officer killed in the line of duty.

Apo was released from the hospital. The driver of the Chevrolet has been arrested on suspicion of negligent homicide, driving under the influence and failure to give information and render aid.

"It's certainly a sad day for us at HPD," Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue said yesterday. "We've lost another hero who served his community well."

Apo, a 42-year-old, seven-year veteran of the department, is "OK" physically, Donohue said. "Emotionally, he's taking it hard."

For the past 23 years Padayao had been living with his girlfriend, Donna Borengasser, and raised her three daughters as his own. The girls' three children, in turn, called Padayao "Papa."

Padayao's romance with Borengasser went back to their junior years in high school. He went to Castle. She was at Kamehameha Schools. And Padayao was dating Borengasser's best friend.

Padayao was struck while setting flares at a traffic accident on Kamehameha Highway near Johnson Road.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Later during the break-up of her marriage, Padayao comforted Borengasser. Their friendship evolved into a love that had no need for a marriage license.

Yesterday, Borengasser went to the Kalihi police station to pick up a photo and had to do a double take. The picture was taken in 1991 — the day that solo bike officer Randal Young was killed by a drunken driver as Young issued a ticket on the Pali Highway.

In the photo, Padayao's HPD badge is covered by a black mourning band.

Padayao told Borengasser that she can't worry about the dangers of his job. It only distracted Padayao to think about her back home in Kahalu'u, worrying.

That was their deal.

Borengasser secretly worried anyway. She thought about it whenever he forgot to put on his vest under the hot Honolulu sun and had to be reminded that wearing it was department policy. She wondered about him getting shot on a stakeout or during an undercover drug deal when he worked in the crime reduction unit in Kalihi.

Even when he transferred to patrol in Kane'ohe to be closer to the grandchildren two years ago, Borengasser had fitful thoughts that he would be run over while directing traffic.

"The job is just dangerous," Borengasser, 46, said. "We prepared for an event that would keep him from coming home. I'd like to say I was prepared. But you know what? ..."

Borengasser never finished her next sentence as the tears started to come.

Throughout the police department yesterday, supervisors reminded their officers about the things they already know — things like officer safety, backing each other up and perhaps the most obvious of all:

"Everyday things like appreciating your loved ones," said Sgt. Chris Fulmer, Padayao's best friend.

Fulmer said she could not remember all the times when somebody would try to take advantage of the 5-foot-5-inch female officer and Fulmer's even shorter, overweight partner. In 1999, a suspect wanted for violating a temporary restraining order kicked Fulmer in the shins and pushed her aside, thinking his best chance was to outrun Padayao.

Like others before him, the suspect figured wrong.

"He thought Danny was a chubby, small, little guy, but he didn't get 50 feet from us before Danny had him," Fulmer said.

When they worked together in Kalihi, the word on the street was that messing with Officer Padayao was a bad idea, Fulmer said.

"He was tough," she said. But mostly his style was to simply take the tension out of a situation with a smile or a joke.

At 48 years old with three growing grandchildren, Padayao's thoughts had been turning to retirement. And he recently told a friend of Fulmer's about his hopes for the future.

It was a prophetic conversation, Fulmer said.

"Danny had just been telling him, 'I just have to put in a few more years without getting shot or killed.'"

Advertiser staff writers Brandon Masuoka and Rod Ohira contributed to this report.

• • •

Honolulu police officers who have died in the line of duty since 1985

• March 1, 1985: David Parker, killed while on his HPD motorcycle in a collision with a cow on Kahekili Highway in Kahalu'u.

• June 15, 1987: David N. Ronk, shot to death with his own weapon while trying to serve a restraining order in Wai'anae.

• Oct. 22, 1987: Troy L. Barboza, shot to death in his home by a drug dealer who discovered his identity as an undercover police officer.

• Oct. 20, 1990: Roy E. Thurman, killed while riding his motorcycle when he attempted to avoid a vehicle that had pulled out in front of him.

• Aug. 28, 1991: Randal N. Young, killed by a drunken driver who struck him while he was giving a ticket to another motorist on Pali Highway.

• July 21, 1995: Bryant Bayne, Tate Kahakai, killed, along with a Fire Department pilot, in a helicopter crash in Hau'ula during a search for a missing hiker.

• April 30, 2001: Danny Padayao, hit by a suspected drunken driver while laying down flares at the scene of a two-car collision along Kamehameha Highway.