One of Hawaii’s most notorious standoffs went down 22 years ago this week.
John Miranda took his former co-workers hostage on Sand Island, leading to an hours-long face-off with police.
Honolulu police officers had their guns drawn, and Miranda had his shotgun taped to the head of a man named Tom McNeil.
McNeil now lives in Canada, where he moved to in 2010, but agreed to share his story with KHON2 News.
“I was just beyond scared having it duct-taped to my head,” McNeil said. “I showed very little emotion, was just letting the hostage negotiators do their job with him and try to bring a peaceful end to this quickly, but that was not to happen.”
McNeil would spend five hours on those stairs with the shotgun taped to his head, and the trigger taped to Miranda’s hand.
“They were just trying to do everything to get him to give up and he would not give up,” McNeil said.
It all started early that morning, on Feb. 6, 1996. McNeil showed up for work at Seal Masters on Sand Island.Related Story: From KHON2’s archives: Gunman killed, hostages injured in hours-long standoff
“I got in and I noticed my boss’ door was locked, so I just started knocking on the door and the door opened, and it was John Miranda with a shotgun in my face,” McNeil said.
Miranda had been fired months earlier from Seal Masters. He was back to get money and revenge.
“He pulled me inside the office and there was other hostages in the building at that time, including bosses,” McNeil said.
Miranda shot one of the bosses, Guy George, in the leg. George later escaped through a window.
“That’s when John Miranda went into a complete rage and directed one of the other hostages to duct tape the shotgun to my head,” McNeil said.
KHON2 asked McNeil why Miranda chose him.
McNeil replied: “I don’t know, I really don’t know why me. I have no idea. I was maybe the closest one to him or he didn’t really have a plan at that time.”
Miranda ordered them to walk out of the building, but police were waiting.
“At that point, he just turned us around and went back up into the building and tried to gain access to the building. And in the interim, the SWAT team, I learned later, had gained access through a back door and locked that door,” McNeil said.
So there they were on the stairs. Minutes turned to hours.
“He started to count down at the end of the day. He demanded and pushed the gun in the back of my head, the shotgun, and demanded I count. And I wasn’t going to do that. I wasn’t going to count to my own death,” McNeil said.
Miranda counted down from 60.
“I was telling myself if they don’t shoot him or do something by 10, that is going to be my zero and I’m going to die trying to save my own life at that stage,” McNeil said.
“He got to 13, and I swung around and the shotgun had enough play in the duct tape that it came over my shoulder, my right shoulder, and he fired a shot and it went right through my shirt and just grazed my neck ever so slightly,” he continued. “I just got down on my knees, one knee and gave — he was a large man, and the police, the SWAT team just opened fire on him.”
Miranda was taken to the hospital and was pronounced dead. McNeil was also taken to the hospital.
“I didn’t suffer any injuries. It was quite miraculous,” McNeil said.
KHON2 asked him if the incident changed his view on life.
“It did,” McNeil replied. “I’ve always been a very easygoing, happy-go-lucky kind of guy. So I still am that person, but I do appreciate everything that I have, and friends, family, things like that and just enjoying life because it is so fleeting.”