VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Even on vacation, police officers are never really off the job.
A couple of members from Victoria Police are being hailed for helping rescue two women who were being attacked in Hawaii recently.
Never far from the job. Two @vicpdcanada officers are being praised for helping intervene in a sex assault while off-duty/vacationing in Hawaii recently. They’re being credited for saving two women. The accused has been charged. I’m speaking w/@ChiefManak. Details on @NEWS1130.
— Sonia Aslam (@SoniaSAslam) January 2, 2020
The pair were vacationing in late-December when they were out for a run in a park in Kona. They heard desperate screams for help and quickly found two women who had been attacked.
“They immediately deviate from their run and start looking around and then go to the area where they heard the screams from–and they come across these two women. One of our officers, Constable [Hayley] Swann, goes to the two women. [She] basically tries to find out what’s happened. She finds out one of these victims was pinned down by this male and the male is now walking away and the other officer goes up to the male and starts a dialogue with this male. [He] keeps a bit of a distance, but tries to assess his state and condition, knowing that something violent has just occurred,” explains Victoria Police Chief Del Manak.
“There was another witness who was on the phone, phoning police because he also had heard the screams of these women and the officer was able to give real clear, concise instructions to the person that was phoning 911 and to make sure police were directed to the right area of the park and [knew] that the incident was actually a really, really serious violent attack on two women.”
He adds local authorities showed up quickly and were able to take the man into custody. “Our officers were able to assist the victims, work with the police department and, in fact, our officer on Christmas Eve was required to attend the preliminary hearing and to provide as evidence the discussion he had with this male right after they had intervened in this violent sexual assault.”
The timing of what happened is incredible and has left Manak and the rest of his department a little stunned.
“The police officers really are experts in their field at making sure they can protect people, making sure they’re getting the right information and making sure they’re able to de-escalate a situation. I can tell you that one of the women said to the police officer, ‘As soon as I saw you and you came and held and hugged me and asked me what happened, I knew that I was safe and that I was going to be protected.’ This is well before the [local] police showed up and, of course, this female victim had no idea that the person comforting her and asking her questions was a Victoria Police officer,” says Manak.
ALWAYS ON-DUTY. Shout out to the 2 @vicpdcanada officers who intervened during a sex assault while on vacation in Kona, Hawaii. They ran to the women’s screams while out for a run in a park. SUS charged with sex assault and kidnapping. #proudchief #ServiceBeforeSelf pic.twitter.com/uKwt3uzUeK
— Del Manak (@ChiefManak) January 2, 2020
He says he only found out what happened when Cst. Swann told him, in passing.
“She’s telling me this story and says, ‘Yeah, they did the arraignment and they had the preliminary hearing right away,’ because they were tourists and they were going to be leaving the country so they wanted their evidence right then and there so it would be compelling… instead of reading it out in a statement.”
Manak says the actions of his members were not only quick-thinking, but brave. They were out for a run without their uniform and with none of gear they noRmally wear when at home.
“I’m so proud of the officers,” he says. “It wasn’t just their initial response, because I think most of us–if we heard somebody who was in distress–we would probably run and see what we could do to help. But it was the fact they were able to calm down the victim, get enough information to categorize what had occurred in that initial emotional moment, and then keep the suspect on view and to make sure the authorities were directed so that the person didn’t get away.”
The two officers, Cst. Swann and Cst. Brent Keddell, have about 40 years of experience between them. Swann has been with VicPD for 25 years and works in the domestic violence unit, while Keddell was an officer in New Zealand for five years before spending the past decade in the B.C. capital.
“I know the Hawaii Police Department officers were very, very thankful that they had police officers who were off-duty that were there and involved. Their response, their composure and the fact that they were able to also be expert witnesses and provide the right amount of detail, testimony and asking the right kind of questions, was obviously convincing for the judge in order for the charge to be approved,” says Manak.
The suspect is a 32-year-old man with a rap sheet. He was linked to an arson at a vacation home prior to the attack. He has been charged with sexual assault and kidnapping among other offences.
“They did the right thing and they knew they wanted to do what they needed to do to protect these women. These two women could not have had anyone better to comfort them and to support them at a time when they needed the most help. Talk about having somebody at the right place, at the right time. If that was you, your mom, your sister, somebody you loved and cared for, you would want that to play out and so many times it doesn’t. But in this particular case, it just ended up working out and obviously our officers are glad it did and they were able to help out.”