A Hawaii handyman with a history of run-ins with police and neighbours faced eviction when he stabbed his landlord and killed two officers before the house he and two women were believed to be inside burned, authorities and neighbours said.
Police responding Sunday to a call for help at the location found a woman stabbed in the leg and resident Jaroslav “Jerry” Hanel, began shooting, killing Officers Tiffany Enriquez, a seven-year veteran, and Kaulike Kalama, a nine-year veteran, Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said.
Police suspect Hanel, who was in his 60s, and two women who have not been identified were inside the house when it caught fire. They were presumed dead and Ballard said it could take days for authorities to recover remains and process evidence.
The fire just a few blocks from oceanfront high-rise buildings spread, destroying seven homes and leaving others with fire or smoke damage. As it raged, the sound of dozens of apparent gunshots rang out.
Ballard said no other officers were injured but that authorities were investigating whether ammunition, incendiary devices or explosives contributed to the intensity of the blaze. The apparent gunfire prompted authorities to initially prevent firefighters from approaching.
The homeowner, Lois Cain, had recently sought the eviction of Hanel, who lived in the home for free in exchange for his work, according to court records and a lawyer who has represented him.
A neighbour told The Associated Press she saw Cain being put into an ambulance suffering from knife wounds. Her condition was not disclosed.
The normally peaceful neighbourhood is at the far end of famed Waikiki Beach, between the Honolulu Zoo and the Diamond Head State Monument, a volcanic crater popular with tourists and hikers.
Ian Felix, a Honolulu resident and combat veteran with medical training, told the AP he was walking by the home when he saw a woman lying on the ground with blood coming from her leg.
Felix applied pressure and put a tourniquet on the woman’s leg until the first police officer arrived. Two more officers arrived moments later; Felix said he then heard two gunshots and that he and the officer carried the injured woman into a neighbour’s garage across the street.
Neighbours described Hanel as mentally disturbed and Ballard said he did not have any gun permits.
Hawaii has some of the toughest gun laws in the U.S. Residents can’t buy firearms without permits approved by local police, who check databases to make sure applicants have not been convicted of felonies or misdemeanour crimes including assault or domestic violence.