Park Ranger Steve Renard Makuakane-Jarrell gave the ultimate sacrifice — his life — on Dec. 12, 1999, protecting Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.
On Wednesday, the 15-year veteran of the National Park Service was venerated for his dedicated service and sacrifice during a Police Officers Memorial Day event held Wednesday at the North Kona park.
Several dozen people, including family and friends of Makuakane-Jarrell, descended upon the park to remember the park ranger who was shot and killed while on his normal patrol duties that December morning. In addition to honoring Makuakane-Jarrell, the park also unveiled an ahu with a bronze plaque and a bronze version of the park service’s iconic Stetson hat in his remembrance.
“Steve really was doing exactly what he loved doing: Protecting this critically endangered shoreline at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park,” said wife Joni Mae Makuakane-Jarrell, who more than once thanked the attendees, park and community for their support on behalf of her and her late husband’s family in Hawaii, Alabama and Georgia.
Though Makuakane-Jarrell died more than 13 years ago, Wednesday’s event was the first time the park has formally recognized the sacrifice he made, said Eric Andersen, chief of interpretation at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. The park annually honors Police Officers Memorial Day.
“We wanted to formally identify his supreme sacrifice,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
According to the park service, Makuakane-Jarrell, who was 47 years old, responded to a complaint of a man with three unleashed dogs and upon confronting the man a struggle ensued. Makuakane-Jarrell was subsequently shot multiple times with his service weapon, ultimately succumbing to his injuries.
The suspect, Eugene F. Boyce III, was apprehended several days later and charged with the murder of Makuakane-Jarrell. Boyce was acquitted after being found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2006. He remains in custody at a mainland federal mental hospital following a review hearing two years ago that found him unfit to return to society, according to the park service.
As a result of the incident, every ranger is outfitted with a radio connected to the Pacific Area Communications Center, which handles dispatch for the national parks in Hawaii, said Jan Gillespie, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park chief ranger.
“I know that his work here has made the rangers and visitors safer,” she said.
President John F. Kennedy designated May 15 as National Peace Officer Memorial Day in 1962 and in 1994, President Bill Clinton directed the American flag on all government buildings be displayed at half-staff in remembrance of those killed.
“It’s a time for all of us to honor and celebrate all the law enforcement officers that valiantly serve our communities and national parks,” said Rhonda Loh, Kaloko-Honokohau acting superintendent. “Every day, these individuals make the conscious commitment to protecting our parks.”
This year, 321 names will be added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Wall in Washington, bringing the number of officers killed in the line of duty in the United States to 19,981, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Officials said 120 officers were killed in 2012.
There are just 39 National Park Service officers’ names on that wall, Loh said. Two hail from parks in Hawaii, Makuakane-Jarrell, and Suzanne E. Roberts, who died Aug. 14, 2004, when a large boulder fell on her head while she was clearing a roadway following heavy rains at Haleakala National Park on Maui.
Makuakane-Jarrell’s and Roberts’ names are already on the memorial wall, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, which oversees the memorial.