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Hibiscus Drive resident reflects on the fire and killing of 2 Honolulu police officers

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Catherine Cruz

Family and friends of the two Honolulu police officers killed by a gunman two years ago gathered recently on Hibiscus Drive near Diamond Head for a private memorial to mark the anniversary.

Officers Tiffany Enriquez, 38, and Kaulike Kalama, 34, were shot and killed while responding to a 911 call for a stabbing by a man who was being evicted from his rental.

The gunman was Jaroslav “Jerry” Hanel, 69. His landlady Lois Cain, 77, died in the fire that destroyed or damaged about half a dozen homes. But walk or drive by the small street today and you’ll see that one home has been rebuilt.

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Catherine Cruz

It was a historic 1925 craftsman home and the Freeman family moved in just barely a month ago. They were out on the porch earlier this week, as passersby stopped to chat to thank them for rebuilding.

They say the small cottage is a welcome sight.

Two other homes are being renovated and permits are in hand for two other properties. The property where the gunman lived has been sold. Another neighbor has also sold and moved away.

Hibiscus Drive resident Russel Freeman spoke with The Conversation last year and this week he graciously chatted with us again. His mood was reflective and hopeful.


CATHERINE CRUZ: We're sitting out here on your front porch, and you have rebuilt the house and you have been here now a month.

RUSSEL FREEMAN: That's right, we moved in on Christmas Eve. They worked very hard to make sure the place was livable for us. There are still some things to do, but we're getting there. We'll be properly rigged up with electricity when HECO gets around to fixing us up, which will be in a week or two. But now we're doing the landscaping. And then the building process will be pretty much complete.

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Catherine Cruz

So we're looking at the sign, it says historic residence and it used to hang on your wall and your house did not survive — but this survived the fire. But the home that you built now is no longer a historic property because that home is gone.

Yes, an historic property has to be at least 50 years old. And of course, the house we have now is completely brand new. I like to say it's actually minus one month old because it'll probably be about a month before the inspector gives the final okay — for everything to be complete. So yes, no longer historic. I think we would have been okay if we had been less than 50% damaged. There's a myth that you can't do anything much with historic homes, but actually, you can do quite a lot. You can even make quite substantial changes as long as they're done in the original style. Once more than 50% is gone, then no longer historic, we'll have to wait for another 50 years.

So what's it been like? I'm sure your neighbors have stopped by just to welcome you back knowing that you're getting settled back in?

We sit on the front porch at night and even complete strangers stop and like to have a chat about the house and say this is great, that looks nice. And we say thank you very much. But I think people are really quite pleased to see the neighborhood finally recovering and things coming back to normal. And maybe in about two years' time, you'll find that everybody's rebuilt and perhaps the whole thing will be part of history, which will be good.

Life goes on on Hibiscus Drive.

Yes, life goes on on Hibiscus Drive. I have told many people that the real tragedy that happened two years ago was that everybody knew this man was mentally ill and that they couldn't do anything about it. So I'm not saying, you know, the police, their hands were tied. So there needs to be something put into place where people who are obviously a danger to themselves or others, which is the criteria, which he clearly was for many years — some action needs to be taken. And if that was the case, well, something good could come of this because this should never have happened. That's the tragedy really.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Jan. 20, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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