REPORT FROM HAWAII COUNTY – Three members of the Hawaiʻi Police Department’s Special Response Team received the Silver Medal of Valor on Thursday (August 30) for barricading explosive ordnance in February, preventing two days worth of rolling blackouts over Super Bowl weekend.
On the evening of Saturday, February 4, an old grenade was discovered on the grounds of Hawaiʻi Electric Light Company’s Kanoelehua power plant in Hilo. When informed that the military’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal team would be unable to respond from Oʻahu for two days, HELCO executives concluded that the power plant would need to be shut down until the ordance disposal team’s arrival to protect the safety of workers at the plant, which is manned 24-hours a day. That would have led to islandwide rolling blackouts, affecting public health and safety and disrupting Super Bowl festivities.
To prevent that, Assistant Chief Marshall Kanehailua, Lieutenant Thomas Shopay and Officer Paul Kim volunteered to barricade the grenade until the ordinance disposal team could respond. Using sandbags to construct a barrier around the grenade, the three men worked through the night to contain the threat to the power plant.
Due to safety regulations, employees from HELCO and the Hawaiʻi County Department of Public Works, who were assisting, couldn’t approach the ordnance, so Kanehailua offered to operate a forklift to place sandbags around the grenade with Shopay and Kim’s assistance.
“Your actions were both gallant and worthy of distinction in that you voluntarily placed yourself in a position of personal danger in order to safeguard the property, lives and well-being of others,” Chief Harry Kubojiri wrote in commendation letters to Kanehailua, Shopay and Kim.
The medals were presented to the three recipients during a private breakfast ceremony Thursday morning held in Mayor Billy Kenoi’s office.
“I know they are humble, and the last thing they wanted was recognition for this,” Chief Kubojiri said during the ceremony. “I’m sure if you ask them, they’ll say they were just doing their job. I’m very proud of the work they did. To expose themselves when they didn’t have to for the good of the entire community is above and beyond.”
Mayor Kenoi told the awardees, “You guys went in, and what you guys did was nothing short of unbelievable. On behalf of the people of the County of Hawaiʻi, thank you for what you do every day, and a special mahalo for what you did on that day.”
Kanehailua is assistant chief in charge of the Administrative Bureau. His responsibilities include being incident commander of the Special Response Team. Some of his previous assignments were major in charge of the Administrative Services Division, captain of the Internal Affairs and Criminal Intelligence units, captain and of the Ka‘ū District, Vice Section lieutenant and member of the Ice Task Force. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He joined the Police Department in 1990.
Shopay is lieutenant in charge of the Special Response Team. He joined the Police Department in December 1999, working as a patrol officer in Kona, a vice officer in Kona and Special Response Team sergeant in Kona.
Kim is a Traffic Enforcement Unit officer and a member of the Special Response Team. His previous assignments were as a patrol officer in South Kohala and South Hilo. He joined the Police Department in October 2003.
The Silver Medal of Valor is presented to officers cited for gallantry while in performance of their duty with marked distinction.