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Preliminary hearing set for police chase suspect

July 25, 2014 - 12:05am

A man accused of attacking a woman, stealing her sport utility vehicle, then leading police on a chase and trying to run down two officers with the stolen SUV before being shot by one of the officers made his initial court appearance Thursday.

Hilo District Judge Harry Freitas ordered 38-year-old Riley Jason Asuncion of Pahoa to return at 2 p.m. Monday for a preliminary hearing.

Asuncion is charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder, kidnapping, first-degree terroristic threatening, unauthorized entry to a motor vehicle, auto theft, two counts of third-degree assault, fourth-degree theft, reckless driving, resisting an order to stop and driving without a license.

Freitas set Asuncion’s bail at $1,583,350, an increase from the previously set $1,521,000.

According to court documents filed by police, 30-year-old Tiare Kahai of Hilo, whom police described as an acquaintance of Asuncion’s, was driving southbound on Kilauea Avenue in Hilo in her pink 1998 Toyota 4-Runner at about 11 a.m. Monday when Asuncion allegedly came out of hiding from the back seat, grabbed her by the hair and punched her numerous times about the head with a closed fist while she attempted to block the blows.

Documents state Asuncion was able to climb into the driver’s seat while continuing to punch Kahai and forced her into the passenger seat. Asuncion allegedly continued to drive down Kilauea Avenue and Kahai was able to escape the SUV near Kawailani Street.

Police say they spotted the SUV in Panaewa and Asuncion tried to swerve into a police vehicle during the pursuit. They then followed it up Stainback Highway and Asuncion pulled off onto a gravel road above Quarry Road. Police say two officers, identified in court documents as Jerome Duarte and Gibson Kahele, got out of their cars and tried to stop Asuncion.

Documents state “Asuncion proceeded to accelerate his vehicle toward” Duarte and Kahele. “Officer Duarte unholstered his firearm” and ordered Asuncion to stop. Asuncion then allegedly “continued to accelerate his vehicle forward and reverse towards officers.” Asuncion allegedly came “within an arm’s length” of Duarte “almost striking him and causing him to fear for his life …”

Police say one of the officers fired three shots at the passenger side of the vehicle. Asuncion was hit and suffered a superficial wound in the torso. Documents don’t explicitly state which officer fired his weapon.

The three counts of attempted first-degree murder are because there is more than one alleged victim, and both were police officers carrying out their official duties.

A conviction for attempted first-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

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

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