Police say escapees plan to rob bank


HILO — Police said two men who escaped a Hilo jail remain at large and plan to rob a bank.

“We’re spending a lot of resources looking for them,” said South Hilo Patrol Capt. Robert Wagner. “We know we’ll find them; I just want to find them, like, now.”

The two — 31-year-old Ryan Jeffries-Hamar and 35-year old Jarvis Higa of Hilo — escaped Wednesday from Hawaii Community Correctional Center by overpowering a 63-year-old adult corrections officer in the jail’s law library and then intimidating the librarian, a 49-year-old woman, into giving them her car keys, police said.

The corrections officer was treated and released at Hilo Medical Center. The librarian was not physically hurt.

Police say the men, who have been the subject of a massive manhunt, ditched the car in Sunrise Ridge subdivision, a short distance from the Punahele Street jail. They then took off on foot, broke into a Kaumana Drive home to steal civilian clothes, and made an unsuccessful attempt to take another vehicle on Wednesday.

“I would say that we have a considerable amount of manpower being placed on this (Thursday),” Wagner said. “Is it as intense as yesterday? I would say it’s more directed in a different direction, today. Yesterday, it was more focused than in the Kaumana area. We’re focusing on all leads that come in relative to their whereabouts.”

Several Hilo schools were put on lockdown on Wednesday following the escape, as was the jail itself. A jail employee said Thursday morning that the lockdown had ended.

Wagner said there were reported sightings of Jeffries-Hamar and Higa in Hilo on Thursday, but police were unable to locate or apprehend them. He said the search had been expanded to Puna and Kona, as well. Both are considered dangerous.

He added that “some aspects of the escape … would lead me to believe that it was planned.”

Higa is awaiting trial on an attempted murder charge for allegedly shooting at and missing a 34-year-old Hilo man in Keaukaha in July. He also faces felony firearms charges. A check of criminal records shows 20 convictions dating back to 1999, including felony robbery, terroristic threatening, drug and firearms convictions and misdemeanor convictions for assault and violating a protective order. He has a court date on Monday to seek a delay in his trial.

If convicted on the attempted murder charge, he faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.

Jeffries-Hamar, who faces another escape charge for walking away from the minimum-security Hale Nani Correctional Facility in August, has 10 criminal convictions in Hawaii dating back to 2005, according to court records. They include felony convictions for burglary, theft and auto theft.

Peter Schonberg of Kailua-Kona, who’s in a long-term relationship with Jeffries-Hamar’s mother, said he hopes Jeffries-Hamar, who has a 7-year-old daughter, “can be taken in without being harmed badly.”

State Department of Public Safety officials on Wednesday admitted the Hilo jail is overcrowded, with more than 300 inmates housed in the facility, designed to hold 226, but DPS spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said staffing of the facility was at normal levels.

“The one ACO in the library is standard operating procedure,” she said.

Asked if that procedure will be scrutinized, Schwartz said the department is “investigating the whole situation.”

The last reported escape from the jail was on Oct. 13, 2010, when Kaulike Rice, then 29, was being released from the jail on one charge and fled past a lone police officer there to arrest him on a warrant in a separate drug case. He was nabbed in Hilo almost a month later.

Procedures at the jail were changed at that time to prevent a similar occurrence.