Police officers recognized for heroic acts during deadly blaze

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Several Honolulu police officers and civilians received big honors Wednesday.

Officer Keola Kopa was awarded the Honolulu Police Department’s Gold Medal of Valor.

It’s been four months since flames ripped through several floors of the Marco Polo building, killing four people.

Kopa was at another call across the street when a passerby flagged him down and pointed out the fire.

He rushed to the building, and was one of the first on the scene.

Despite several floors already engulfed in flames and large chunks of debris falling, Kopa ran into the building and began evacuating residents.

He carried an elderly female from the sixth floor and brought her to safety, as well as an elderly male, who is hearing impaired, from the 20th floor.

“A lot of them were very thankful, because a lot of handicap and elderly along with a lot of children and strollers and parents had a hard time bringing the children down the stairs,” Kopa said. “Physically, it was pretty challenging, but I think just the adrenaline and the thought of having to get the people out, I think all of us was able to overcome that and just put them first before us. … Just seeing the look on the families’ faces after they found their loved ones that was back out and safe, I think that was the most rewarding thing for all of us together.”

Second Watch officers in District 7 were named Unit of the Quarter for their assistance in the Marco Polo building fire.

In addition to Kopa, the unit includes Lieutenant David Ardren; Sergeants Cyrus Hanuna, Pamela Liu, and Jesse Okumura; Corporals Cynthia Hytry, Michael Kemna, and Michael Low; and Officers Celine Aiu, Clinton Ono, Adam Dailey-Mcilrath, Travis Kimura, Keenan Lau, Bradley Mamuad, Corey Morgan, Jenna Lynn Shimabuku, Lance Thornall, and David Witherwax.

The blaze has been described as the worst fire in state history. Its cause is still unknown.

The following officers and civilians were also recognized, per a department release:

“Sergeant Jonathan Castro of the Training Division was named the Officer of the Quarter. Assigned to the division in January, he has shown an impressive work ethic and desire to make improvements. First, he reviewed and revised the recruit scenario program by generating new scenarios. He and his staff also renovated the Criminal Investigation Building, which is used to simulate realistic patrol environments. These projects required a large amount of vision and creativity.

Ms. Thalia Burns of the Communications Division was named the Civilian Employee of the Quarter. As a supervising police radio dispatcher, Ms. Burns’ knowledge of telecommunications is invaluable to HPD. Her quick thinking and close partnerships with Hawaiian Telcom and the city’s Department of Information and Technology has allowed her to address critical situations to keep the 911 telephone system running.

District 1 (Central Honolulu) Sergeant Deric Valoroso received the Bronze Medal of Merit. In June, officers responded to reports of gunshots at a Honolulu condominium. The suspects fired at the apartment door, causing debris to injure two residents in the hallway. The suspects then barricaded themselves in the unit. The suspects stated that Sergeant Valoroso mentored them in the past. Sergeant Valoroso responded to the scene and was able to convince both suspects to exit the building without further incident.

District 1 Officer Grant Mochizuki received the Bronze Medal of Merit. In June, Officer Mochizuki and other officers responded to a distraught male who wanted to harm himself. Upon arrival, they observed a male standing near the ledge of a nine-story parking structure. Officer Mochizuki listened to the male with compassion and convinced him to sit on the ledge, enabling officers to detain him and transport him to the hospital for medical attention.

Mr. Frederick Hillen Jr. received the Certificate of Merit for assisting officers in District 4 (Windward Oahu). In August, District 4 Crime Reduction Unit officers attempted to apprehend a warrant suspect. The officers located the suspect, who was operating a stolen vehicle, and attempted to pull him over. The suspect then rammed two HPD vehicles and ran on foot into a heavily brushed shoreline. Mr. Hillen was at the dock and volunteered his fishing boat to assist officers in their search for the suspect along the shoreline.

District 5 (Kalihi) Corporal Adam Schonhardt received the Certificate of Merit. In October, Corporal Schonhardt was off duty and notified HPD dispatch of a large truck that hit a bicyclist. Corporal Schonhardt immediately rendered first aid to save the individual, who was in critical condition. He applied a tourniquet on the victim and continued to provide first aid until paramedics arrived.

District 5 Officer Jordan Monico received the Certificate of Merit. In September, Officer Monico responded to a defibrillator call. Upon arrival, he observed an individual performing CPR on an unresponsive female. The victim was not breathing, so Officer Monico began chest compressions. Officer Monico was able to restore the victim’s heartbeat.”

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