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Retired cop pleads not guilty to threat, firearms charges

A retired Hawaii Police Department detective who is suing the county and a police major for allegedly falsely arresting, imprisoning and defaming him more than two years ago is facing four felony charges stemming from the incident.

John Rodrigues Jr., 53, of Keaau pleaded not guilty Tuesday to first-degree terroristic threatening, two counts of illegally carrying a firearm and one count of possessing a detachable magazine with a capacity in excess of 10 rounds of ammunition.

The illegal carry charges are Class B felonies with a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment upon conviction. The terroristic threatening and illegal magazine charges are Class C felonies carrying potential five-year prison terms.

Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto ordered Rodrigues, who is free on $25,000 bail, to appear for trial at 8:30 a.m. July 15.

Rodrigues was indicted Feb. 20 by a Hilo grand jury in a case brought by the state attorney general’s office. According to the indictment, on Jan. 26, 2017, Rodrigues threatened Nathan Figueroa with a firearm.

Police say they responded to Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision at about 10 a.m. that day on the report of “gunshots fired.” According to police, they contacted a group near where the shots were reported and determined that although firearms were involved in a confrontation, no shots were fired.

Rodrigues was arrested on suspicion of three counts of terroristic threatening and six firearms offenses, police said, but was later released pending further investigation.

Rodrigues sued the county and then-Capt. Samuel Jelsma, who has since been promoted to major, claiming Rodrigues’ civil rights were violated and he was defamed by the department, which issued a media release even though charges weren’t filed at the time.

In Rodrigues’ suit, filed first in Hilo Circuit Court but later moved to U.S. District Court in Honolulu, he claims he was threatened by Wesley Kaimana “Mana” Brooks, whom Rodrigues said fired a shot at him with a 9 mm handgun.

Rodrigues alleges that when Jelsma arrived on scene, he directed officers, with Rodrigues’ permission, to search his truck for firearms. Officers recovered a Remington shotgun and Smith and Wesson 9 mm handgun from the truck. Rodrigues claims that, as a retired police officer in good standing, he is legally authorized to concealed carry under the 2004 federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, or LEOSA.

The suit, which is still active, also alleges Brooks had stalked Rodrigues’ son, and his son had filed three police reports, including one alleging Brooks had made a death threat against Rodrigues’ son while brandishing an AK-47 and a 9 mm handgun, but police refused to investigate.

In addition, Rodrigues claims he was improperly detained for four hours at the Pahoa police station before he was advised of his rights and arrested.

Nakamoto ordered Rodrigues to surrender any firearms he has to police within 48 hours and to stay away from Figueroa and three other witnesses, including a minor.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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