Man shot by police charged with attempted first-degree murder


A 38-year-old Pahoa man has been charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder after a car chase on Monday led to shots being fired by officers, one of which hit the suspect.

At 10:50 a.m. Wednesday, Riley Jason Asuncion was also charged with kidnapping, first-degree terroristic threatening, unauthorized entry to a motor vehicle, auto theft, fourth-degree theft, two counts of third-degree assault, reckless driving, resisting an order to stop and driving without a license.

Police say Asuncion led officers on a pursuit in a stolen vehicle from Panaewa to Stainback Highway, where he allegedly tried to run down two officers who had exited their vehicles.

One of the officers fired three shots, all which hit the passenger side of the vehicle, Assistant Police Chief Henry Tavares said.

“Detectives determined that he (Asuncion), was struck by one of the rounds, which caused a superficial wound to his torso,” Tavares said.

There were previous conflicting reports as to whether Asuncion was shot or struck by debris caused by the shooting.

“At the time, we couldn’t determine if it was the round that hit him or just shrapnel from the door,” Tavares said.

Neither of the officers was injured, Tavares said.

Asuncion’s bail was set at $1,521,000, and he remains in the Hilo cellblock pending his initial court appearance, scheduled for today.

Tavares said investigators determined Asuncion illegally entered the sport-utility vehicle, which belonged to a 30-year-old female acquaintance, without her knowledge on Monday morning.

“As the woman was driving on Kilauea Avenue in downtown Hilo, he surprised her from the back seat, assaulted her and gained control of the SUV,” Tavares said, adding the woman managed to escape from the vehicle on Kinoole Street near Haihai Street. The woman is the victim of both misdemeanor assault charges, Tavares said.

Tavares said officers spotted the SUV in Panaewa after receiving a report of an apparent domestic dispute inside the vehicle. He said Asuncion swerved in an attempt to ram an officer’s car, then fled to Stainback Highway with police in pursuit.

He said Asuncion turned onto an undeveloped road above Quarry Road, turned the SUV around, then drove toward the two officers, one of whom responded with gunfire. Asuncion drove a little farther down Stainback, then got out of the vehicle and fled into the bushes, Tavares said.

“He did give himself up,” Tavares said, after officers found him.

After being taken into custody, Asuncion was transported by ambulance to Hilo Medical Center, where he was treated for his wound and released back into custody on Monday evening.

Asuncion, who has a lengthy rap sheet but only one felony conviction, for burglary, was also arrested on an unrelated warrant for violating his probation, Tavares said.

The officers have both been placed on desk duty as the police-involved shooting is investigated by both the Criminal Investigations Section and the Office of Professional Standards, the department’s internal affairs unit.

One is a six-year police veteran while the other has been on the force about a year.

If convicted of first-degree attempted murder, Asuncion faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Two of the counts are because the victims are police officers in the performance of their duties; the other is because there is more than one victim.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.