KAILUA-KONA -- A disconnect exists between the Hawaii Police Department and cattle ranchers in Ka‘u, who say over the last few years there has been a troubling and significant increase in the number of cows slain by unknown assailants for no apparent reason.
The most recent killing occurred at the farm of Armando Rodriguez, where area Ka‘u police Capt. Kenneth Quiocho said a cow was slain off Molino Road, also known to locals as Old Tractor Road, on approximately Nov. 19.
“Currently, there are no leads and the singular incident remains under investigation,” Quiocho communicated to West Hawaii Today via email through HPD public information officer Alan Richmond. “… it’s classified as (a) cruelty to animals case since there were not parts of the cow removed following the shooting.”
Guy Galimba, a long-time cattle rancher in Naalehu, told West Hawaii Today last week that eight or nine of his cows had been killed in the same fashion over the past year or so. Only twice had meat been removed, and even then it was only small amounts.
He added several other ranchers he knew had experienced similar problems, which was indicative of a habitual offender or offenders killing simply for the thrill of it.
But based on police filings, that’s not the case.
“The district of Ka‘u has not had a crime spree associated with this isolated incident,” Quiocho wrote. “Research conducted indicated that since January 2017 to November 2017, there have been two reported animal cruelty cases, this being the third, and one theft of livestock case initiated.”
Galimba on Monday disputed the claim that there hasn’t been a cattle killing spree.
“It’s a constant thing we’re battling,” he said. “Whether they’re shooting the cows or cutting the fences, it’s something we’re constantly having to deal with. I wouldn’t call it an isolated case.”
The disconnect appears to be that several ranchers, including Galimba, have simply stopped reporting the crimes because they don’t believe anything can or will be done.
Ricky Souza, who’s been farming and ranching all his life, said one of his cows was shot in the shoulder and left for dead last year. The animal eventually perished.
“I told the cops about it, but they can’t do nothing about it,” he said. “They have to catch the person in the act.”
Souza’s sentiment was echoed by each one of the half dozen ranchers contacted by WHT. The ranchers aren’t blaming police or making accusations of negligence. They simply believe because of the nature of the crimes, there’s little cops can do.
Nothing has changed in the past, they said, so why waste the time?
“I made a police report for the first one,” said one rancher, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from the shooters who have been senselessly slaughtering on his property for years.
He said he’s lost three cows -- two heifers and one bull -- to sport slayings in the last three years. Two of those incidents have occurred in the time frame to which Quiocho alluded, between January and November of this year.
“I didn’t report those,” the rancher said. “It goes nowhere. They take a picture and since they don’t have any hard evidence of who is doing it, they toss it out.”
Phil Becker has been farming and ranching in Naalehu for nearly two decades, and while he hasn’t lost any cattle to random slayings, he said the trends he’s hearing about from friends and neighbors are troubling.
“It has gotten worse, much worse, in I’d say the last three or four years,” Becker said. “I don’t know if it’s just for the fun of it or retaliation or what the purpose is.”
Jerry Benevides, another rancher who leases land across Naalehu, has lost two cows to random shootings in the last year, including one within the last couple of months. He, too, said he hasn’t reported the incidents because he filed police reports in the past to no avail.
But he did say there’s one place HPD might start looking at more closely.
“It’s happening mostly on Kaalaiki Road,” Benevides said. “That road connects Naalehu to Pahala, and that’s pretty much how the outlaws and the poachers get back and forth.”
Kaalaiki Road is also referred to as the Old Sugar Cane Road, or the upper road.
Souza said his cow was killed near that road. The rancher who asked to remain anonymous added that one of the three cows he lost was found bleeding from the head on the shoulder of Kaalaiki.
None of that came as a surprise to a farmer who owns property along Kaalaiki Road and camps there occasionally on the weekends.
The farmer, who also asked for anonymity out of fear of retaliation, said while camping he often hears loud music and gun shots in the distance -- what he presumes to be people stopping along the roadside after midnight and loitering, sometimes for several hours.
Rodriguez, who reported the killing of his cow a little more than a week ago, said he did so because he fears those senselessly slaying animals will one day escalate to killing people.
Police have stressed that all crimes, including agricultural crimes, should be reported so that they have the clearest picture of what’s going on in the community and can adjust policing strategies accordingly -- even if they can’t always correct the wrongdoing immediately.
HPD also warned those who may be getting fed up about the dangers of vigilantism.
“The public is not being advised to take action,” Quiocho said. “However, they are cautioned to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity to report this activity to police.”