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Puna man charged with offenses after being stopped by police with gunfire

MEDIA RELEASE

Joseph Paul 'JP' Branco

Joseph Paul ‘JP’ Branco

Hawaiʻi Island police have charged a Puna man for several offenses in connection with an officer-involved shooting that occurred Sunday (May 20), in upper Puna.

At 11:30 p.m. Monday evening (May 21), police charged Joseph Paul ‘JP’ Branco with first-degree terroristic threatening, unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, resisting an order to stop, first-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, possession of drug paraphernalia, and five firearms offenses to include possession of a firearm with intent to facilitate the commission of a felony drug offense. He is currently being held at the Hawaiʻi Community Correctional Center in lieu of $191,000 bail, pending his initial appearance scheduled for this afternoon (May 22) in Puna District Court.

At about 8:55 a.m., police located 32-year old Branco, of Puna standing next to a stolen 2002 Toyota Tacoma on a roadway access between Waimaka O Pele Road (Kopua Farm Lots) and Pikake Streets (Fern Acres).

Officers gave the suspect verbal commands so they could take him into custody when he got into the stolen truck and drove at a high rate of speed toward two officers who were on the roadway bordered on both sides by thick brush and debris such as used car parts and old tires.

The two 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. As a result, the vehicle stopped before reaching the officers and the suspect was taken into custody without further incident. Neither the officers nor the suspect, and lone occupant of the truck, were injured.

One officer fired 4 shots and the other fired 9. Both officers have been placed on administrative leave as is standard practice in any officer-involved shooting pending the outcome of an administrative investigation. 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 the administrative investigation.

Detectives with the Area I Criminal Investigation Section served a search warrant on the truck and recovered a loaded .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol, a .30-30 lever action rifle, approximately 48 grams of crystal methamphetamine (“ice”) and drug paraphernalia.

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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