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Police fire 13 shots at suspect driving stolen vehicle at them in Puna Sunday (May 20)

MEDIA RELEASE

Hawaiʻi Island police are investigating an officer-involved shooting that occurred Sunday (May 20), in upper Puna. There were no injuries sustained by the officers or the suspect.

At about 8:55 a.m., police were looking for a suspect said to be in possession of a stolen 2002 Toyota Tacoma when they found the truck and a man standing next to it on a roadway access between Waimaka O Pele Road (Kopua Farm Lots) and Pikake Streets (Fern Acres). Officers recognized the man as 32-year old Joseph Paul “JP” Branco, of Puna.

The two officers gave verbal commands so they could take him into custody. The suspect got into the stolen truck and drove at a high rate of speed toward the officers who were on the roadway bordered on both sides by thick brush and debris. The officers, having no avenue of retreat, fired a total of 13 shots at the suspect vehicle as it approached them, striking the vehicle’s hood and windshield. The suspect driver, and sole occupant of the vehicle, was not hit and suffered no injuries. The suspect was then taken into custody without further incident.

Detectives later recovered from within the stolen truck a 30-30 rifle, a .45 caliber pistol and 47.5 grams of a crystalline substance believed to be crystal methamphetamine.

Branco is being held at the Hilo cellblock while detectives with the Criminal Investigation Section continue this investigation classified at this time as a terroristic threatening.

Both officers have been placed on administrative leave as is standard practice in any officer-involved shooting. The Police Department’s Area I Criminal Investigations Section will conduct a criminal investigation into the shooting, and the Office of Professional Standards will conduct an administrative investigation.

Police ask anyone with any information about this incident to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311 or contact Lieutenant Miles Chong at 961-2252 or via email at miles.chong@hawaiicounty.gov.

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