Officer Duane Rapoza, Jr., a four-year police veteran, has been selected as the East Hawaiʻi Aloha Exchange Club’s June 2017 Officer of the Month.
According to HPD, Officer Rapoza was selected for single handedly locating and arresting two individuals in high profile cases, the most recent being a person who had fled the scene of a fatal traffic collision, the other being a highly elusive car thief in a brand new stolen vehicle.
On May 17 at around 9 p.m. Officer Rapoza and other officers responded to a two-vehicle crash on Highway 130 near Pōhaku Drive, one vehicle was reported to be fully engulfed in flames. Upon Officer Rapoza’s arrival he confirmed it was a fatal traffic crash with a 1990 Toyota Pickup laying on its side, and that the driver of the responsible 2003 Mazda sedan had been observed walking away and leaving the area.
Officer Rapoza conducted witness interviews, and then advised other officers of his intent to make checks for the registered owner of the vehicle. Officer Rapoza proceeded to the home of the registered owner and successfully located the 26-year-old male, apprehending him before any other officer’s arrival.
On January 21 at around 12 p.m. Officer Rapoza was dispatched to a suspicious vehicle report on Amaumau Road in Volcano. Arriving in the area and while conducting checks, he was flagged down by a resident who related there was suspicious activity at a vacant property located up the road. Officer Rapoza drove to the entrance to the property and discretely parked his vehicle at the beginning of the driveway electing to proceed solo on foot through the thick, overgrown foliage. Upon walking up the driveway, Officer Rapoza observed a new white Subaru WRX sedan within the carport of the home and a male and female loading items into the trunk of the vehicle.
As the two individuals become aware of his presence, they immediately dove into the vehicle and attempted to flee, reversing rapidly out of the carport but losing control crashing into some bushes. The occupants then bolted off on foot into a thick, grassy field toward some bushes, Officer Rapoza immediately chased after them and caught the male on the uneven, grassy terrain, after a short struggle he was able to safely apprehend him. The female was able to get away.
As a result of Officer Rapoza’s actions the stolen 2017 Subaru, taken from a car dealership in Kona earlier that week, was recovered. Officer Rapoza additionally recovered a stolen motorcycle, and parts from another stolen Subaru which were discovered in the carport of the vacant residence.
Through his continued actions HPD says Officer Rapoza exemplifies the ʻPolice Department Core Values of Integrity, Professionalism, Compassion, Teamwork and Community Satisfaction.