The Aloha Exchange Club recognized two officers at Thursday’s East Hawaiʻi “Officer of the Month” luncheon.
Officer Melvin Vargas was honored as the July “Officer of the Month” following a nomination by Sergeant BJ Duarte. Sergeant Duarte credits Officer Vargas’ diligent efforts and keen observation with the arrest of two burglary suspects and the recovery of stolen items.
On July 20, 2018, Officer Vargas responded to a report of a burglary at a local government office on Aupuni Street. His investigation reveled that unknown suspects had removed laptop computers and a camera from various locations in the building. Upon viewing video surveillance footage, Officer Vargas was able to identify the male and female suspects through previous contact with them.
On July 22, 2018, Officer Vargas responded to a report of a domestic at an abandoned building on Kīlauea Avenue where he then makes contact with both the male and female burglary suspects. The female was wearing the same clothing that she had on during the burglary. Both suspects were arrested and through further investigation Officer Vargas learns the location of the stolen items, most of which were later recovered. Both suspects were charged with Burglary in the Second Degree and Theft in the Second Degree. The male suspect was also charged with Promotion of a Detrimental Drug after being found to have marijuana on him at the time of arrest.
Officer Vargas is a former Honolulu Police Officer who joined the Hawaii Police Department in 2016 and is currently assigned to South Hilo Patrol.
Officer Wyatt Kaili-Leong, a 7-year veteran currently assigned to the Puna Patrol District, was recognized as the September “Officer of the Month”. Acting Sergeant Eddie Cardines nominated Officer Kaili-Leong for his diligence, dedication, and thorough investigative efforts which led to the arrest of a wanted female and the recover of an illegal firearm.
On August 15, 2018, Officer Kaili-Leong responded to reports of a wanted male fugitive fronting a residence in Hawaiian Paradise Park. Upon the arrival of Officer Kaili-Leong and another Puna Patrol officer it was found that the wanted male was no longer in the area, although they did make contact with a female that he had been speaking with and discovered that she was wanted for two outstanding Revocation of Supervised Release warrants. The female, who was seated within the drivers seat of a vehicle, was promptly arrested and it was found that in plain view on the passenger seat within arms reach of her was an unzipped backpack with the pistol grip of a firearm protruding from it.
Officer Kaili-Leong was able to obtain consent to search the vehicle from the registered owner and the backpack was recovered. Upon drafting, obtaining and serving a search warrant on the backpack, Officer Kaili-Leong recovered a “sawed-off” shotgun with defaced serial numbers and 14-rounds of 12 gauge ammunition. The female suspect was later charged with numerous firearms and other offenses and her bail was set at $17, 250.
Acting Sergeant Cardines noted that Officer Kaili-Leong completed the entire complex investigation on his own, something that would usually have been handed over to a detective, all while he was assigned to 12-hour shifts due to the recent lava activity in lower Puna.
Officer Kaili-Leong is also credited with leading the Puna District in both Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) evaluations and Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of an Intoxicant (OVUII) arrests. Cardines stated that his actions clearly demonstrate his commitment to the Hawaii Police Department Core Values.
As “Officer of the Month”, both officers are eligible for “Officer of the Year”.
The East Hawaiʻi “Officer of the Month” award is a project of the Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi.
HPD courtesy photos of Officer Vargas with Aloha Exchange Club Member John Stewart and Officer Kaili-Leong with Aloha Exchange Club Member James Sanborn.