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Hawaii Handyman Facing Eviction Guns Down Two Cops Before Dying In House Fire He Set, Police Say

Jaroslav Hanel, 69, had previous run-ins with police, but neighbors and his lawyer said they never expected him to be capable of deadly violence.

By Connor Mannion
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A Hawaii handyman reacted poorly to news of his impending eviction – with Honolulu police saying the man went on a rampage that took the lives of two police officers before he set a destructive blaze that claimed his own life. 

Jaroslav Hanel, 69 – who went by the nickname Jerry – had been served with notice of eviction late last week by his landlady, according to local television station KHON2.

But what seemed to be a standard dispute between landlord and tenant escalated to "unprecedented tragedy" over the weekend, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell told reporters on Sunday, according to HawaiiNewsNow

Signs of trouble began early Sunday morning with a 911 call reporting a stabbing. 

“The initial responding officers found a female who had been stabbed in the leg,” said Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard, according to KHON2. 

Tiffany Enriquez Kaulike Kalama Ap

The responding officers were then ambushed as Hanel opened fire on them, police said. Oficers Tiffany Enriquez and Kaulike Kalama later died from gunshot injuries.

“On behalf of the men and women of the police department, our deepest condolences go out to the families of officers Tiffany Enriquez and Kaulike Kalama,” Ballard said, according to KHON.

As more officers responded, thick black smoke began billowing out of Hanel's residence. Hanel's gunfire prevented firefighters from responding to the blaze, which began to quickly spread and engulfed seven other homes. 

Hanel died in the blaze, which authorities believe he started. As of Monday, one other person – Hanel's landlady Lois Cain – was still missing and believed dead, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Hanel's attorney Jonathan Bruge, who represented him in a number of past disputes, said Cain's sister called to say Cain was still missing as of Monday night, according to the Star Advertiser. HawaiiNewsNow likewise reported that Cain is still missing as of Monday following the discovery of another person who had been unaccounted for following the fire.

“She said Lois isn’t the one in the hospital,” Burge said. “They believe she’s one of the people that died in the fire. They can’t contact her. So they say she’s missing and they are presuming she was in the fire.”

Many other questions remain in the wake of the tragedy – especially related to how Hanel was able to obtain a gun given his history of run-ins with police. Bruge said he considered his client to be "paranoid" – but didn't think Hanel was capable of such violent acts.

“I knew he was paranoid — he thought the Secret Service was following him around in his house,” Burge told the Star Advertiser. “It wasn’t [a] violent kind of crazy. It was just kind of paranoid of the government watching him all the time.”

“They knew of the suspect and had responded to that residence on several occasions and were aware of him,” Ballard said, according to KHON2, “and he had never acted out with the officers.”

“He didn’t agree with the police a lot, but he was never violent with them,” Burge continued.

Police Chief Ballard said Hanel had no gun permit and Burge likewise had no idea how he obtained a firearm.

“I don’t know how in the hell he got a gun because I’ve never seen or heard of him having a gun in all of his cases,” Burge said. “That one surprised the hell out of me, as I’m sure it surprised the officers. The female officer [Enriquez] had been to his house before.”

Hanel's neighbors were shocked by his actions – though they were often unnerved by him in previous interactions, with one neighbor even filing a restraining order against him.

“It’s unbelievable,” his neighbor Rebecca Atkinson told the Star Advertiser. “We all knew he was weird and annoying, but we didn’t really think he was that much of a danger to himself and others.”

“His paranoia and schizophrenia definitely got worse over the years,” Atkinson said. “A lot of the neighbors were on his side and just wanted to help him be OK, and they never thought he would hurt anyone either.”

Hanel lived for free at the home in exchange for handyman work but his relationship with Cain had soured in recent days following the death of Hanel's dog, according to The Associated Press.

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