In brief | Big Island & state briefs 082313


Police searching for missing Puna woman

Hawaii Island police are searching for a 58-year-old Puna woman reported as missing.

Janshon Liao of Hawaiian Beaches was last seen in Pahoa town Friday afternoon. Liao has a medical condition and requires medication.

She is described as Asian, 5 feet tall, weighing 140 pounds with brown eyes and short salt-and-pepper hair. She was last seen wearing a white shirt, red pants and pink shoes.

Police ask anyone with information on her whereabouts to call the Police Department’s nonemergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Task force arrests 37 fugitives in Hilo

The U.S. Marshals Hawaii Fugitive Task Force arrested 37 fugitives during a four-day warrant sweep in Hilo.

The sweep began Monday. Deputy U.S. Marshals, Hawaii State Sheriffs and Hawaii Police targeted fugitives with extensive criminal histories wanted for narcotics offenses, firearms violations, sex-related offenses and other violent crimes. After four days, 36 state fugitives and one federal fugitive were arrested, clearing 46 outstanding arrest warrants. Law enforcement officers were also able to charge 21 new drug cases.

Seizures during the mission included 27 4- to 5-foot-tall marijuana plants, 11.5 grams of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

Puna man faces charges in shooting incident

Police charged one of two Puna men arrested in connection with shots being fired in a residential neighborhood with nine offenses.

Peter Lopes Jr., 45, of Hawaiian Beaches was charged Friday with first-degree reckless endangering, abuse of a family/household member, three counts of ownership prohibited, three counts of place to keep and leaving the scene of an accident. His bail was set at $123,000. He is being held at the Hilo police cellblock pending his initial court appearance Monday.

Officers searched his home Thursday and found two firearms with ammunition. Because Lopes is a felon, it is illegal for him to possess weapons or ammunition.

Police said Lopes assaulted a 42-year-old woman on Wednesday during a domestic argument in Hawaiian Paradise Park. After leaving the house, he collided with another vehicle, left the scene of the accident, then went to a home in Hawaiian Beaches, where he discharged a firearm.

The other man arrested after the shots were fired, 63-year-old Peter Lopes Sr., was released pending further investigation.

Man facing drug charges after police raid

Police arrested a man and a woman Thursday when Vice officers served a search warrant on their Pepeekeo home.

Officers found 35.5 grams of crystal methamphetamine, along with paraphernalia associated with distributing the drug while searching the Kaapepa Street home. Police also seized a 2006 Dodge 2500 diesel truck, a 2001 Toyota Camry, a 1995 Honda two-door hatchback and its trailer, and $5,751 in cash for forfeiture.

Arrested at the scene were Ryland Uchima, 31, and a woman, who was later released pending further investigation.

Police Friday afternoon charged Uchima with attempted first-degree meth trafficking, third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and two counts of drug paraphernalia. His bail was set at $56,000. He is being held at the Hilo police cellblock pending his initial court appearance scheduled for Monday.

Lost hiker rescued at national park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park rangers and a helicopter pilot rescued a man early Friday morning who became lost in the park Thursday.

Park officials said Zigui Yuan, 76, of China spent an “uncomfortable and chilly night” on an old lava field after getting lost near Puu Huluhulu cinder cone, where there is little or no cellphone reception.

Yuan’s wife, Paulili Yuan, reported him missing at 8 p.m. Thursday. She told rangers her husband went east, toward Napau Crater Thursday morning, from the Puu Huluhulu trailhead. He tried to contact his wife, by cellphone, at about 7 p.m., but the call failed, park officials said.

Park Rangers John Moraes and John Broward searched for Yuan near Puu Huluhulu in the dark, using handheld spotlights to illuminate the lava landscape, while Ranger Andrew Sanford patrolled Chain of Craters Road. The search was suspended at 1 a.m. until daybreak.

A ground and air search was launched in the morning. Helicopter pilot David Okita spotted Yuan about 660 feet southwest of Puu Huluhulu. Okita and Park Ranger Jon Makaike landed, and retrieved Yuan. He was cold, dehydrated, and exhausted, but had no major injuries, and declined further medical treatment. Yuan was reunited with his wife at 6:30 a.m. today.

Yuan told rangers he kept hiking until it became dark and he could no longer see the rock pile trail markers. He took shelter against the wind in a small depression in the old lava flows, and waited for daylight.

“Yuan made the right decision to hunker down for the night,” Broward said. “This area is riddled with unstable ground, hidden earth cracks, deep craters, and sharp and brittle lava. He could have been seriously injured if he continued trying to find his way out in the dark.”

This was the park’s 14th SAR incident this year. There were 26 SAR incidents in 2012.

Police officer honored by Exchange Club

The Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaii recognized Officer Donovan Hegarty on Thursday as the East Hawaii Officer of the Month for August.

Hegarty was honored for his response to a burglary in progress. Just after midnight July 11, Hegarty was on patrol when a resident of Hawaiian Paradise Park reported his neighbor’s house was being burglarized. While en route, Hegarty encountered a dark pickup truck speeding toward him, then turning abruptly onto an unpaved side street without signaling. He immediately attempted to initiate a traffic stop on the truck and observed two men in the back along with several bed sets. The suspects began to throw the furniture onto the road to block his path.

When the truck stopped, Hegarty immediately moved in to apprehend the driver as the two other suspects fled on foot into the darkness. The vehicle was then seized, as other suspected stolen property was observed inside. Hegarty subsequently recovered several bedroom sets the suspects had dumped in their attempt to block the road. The apprehension of the driver allowed detectives to later identify and arrest the other suspects, one of whom had previously eluded police while being sought for numerous crimes in East Hawaii.

As Officer of the Month, Hegarty is eligible for Officer of the Year. The East Hawaii Officer of the Month award is a project of the Aloha Exchange Club of Hilo.

Agents destroy brooms carrying harmful fungus

HONOLULU — Federal authorities have destroyed imported brooms found to be carrying a harmful fungus.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists found the fungus Aug. 9 on a shipment of “native brooms” from the Philippines.

The handicrafts were made from a species of palm.

Signs of plant disease prompted the agriculture specialists to seal the container for further inspection. The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service identified the fungus as a type of Guignardia and said it would be harmful to plants.

The shipment was destroyed by steam sterilization.

Students fail to meet ACT benchmarks

HONOLULU — The state Department of Education says a record number of Hawaii students took the ACT test in spring 2012 but the majority didn’t meet college-readiness benchmarks.

The state says more than 5,300 public and private school students took the test, a 75 percent increase from the class of 2010.

According to the state, 30 percent of students met the benchmark for science, 37 percent for reading, 43 percent for math and 56 percent for English. Nationwide, just a quarter of this year’s high school graduates cleared the bar in all four subjects.

The test is graded on a scale of 1 to 36. Hawaii graduates who tested as juniors in spring 2012 posted a statewide average composite mark of 20.1. The national average composite score was 20.9.

Kauai committee approves tax changes

LIHUE, Kauai — A Kauai County Council committee has approved a measure to change the county’s property tax system.

The county Finance Committee approved the measure 3-2, and the full seven-member county council will consider the tax revision next week.

“This bill is about fairness,” finance director Steve Hunt said. “It goes back to the principle of ad valorem taxes and is based on the value of the property.”

A change in the law this year divided taxpayer classes by use rather than zoning. Some taxpayers were surprised to find homestead rates, $3.05 per $1,000 of assessed value, changed to commercial rates at $8 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Hunt said the administrators looked at how owners of property with similar assessments could be paying different rates.

Bill 2495 would eliminate a cap on property taxes that has protected some resident homeowners from climbing real estate values. Elimination of the cap, he said, will be offset by more tax exemptions.

The measure proposes a $160,000 tax exemption for resident homeowners. The exemption would jump to $180,000 for homeowners ages 60 to 69 and $200,000 for homeowners 70 and older.

Transient vacation rentals are taxed $8 per $1,000 of assessed value. Owners would receive the resident homeowners’ exemption if they live in the house for six months or more per year.

Early morning shooting wounds man

HONOLULU — Honolulu police are looking for a suspect responsible for an early morning shooting in Pearl City

Honolulu Emergency Medical Services Department says a 21-year-old man just after 12:30 a.m. Friday was shot along the Kamehameha Highway near an arcade.

Police say a fight between a man and a woman broke out in a parking lot and a gun was fired.

KHON-TV report the wounded man was taken to a hospital and reported as stable.

By local and wire sources

Lamson is project coordinator

Megan Lamson is the project coordinator for Hawaii Wildlife Fund. Her title was incorrect in an article, featuring the Hoonoua Anchialine Pool Restoration Project, that appeared in Friday’s edition.

It is the policy of West Hawaii Today to correct promptly any incorrect or misleading information when it is brought to the attention of the newspaper.