The soldier who was shot and killed early Tuesday morning during a confrontation with police has been identified as Gregory Gordon, 22, of Ashford, Alabama.
According to the Honolulu medical examiner’s office, Gordon’s blood alcohol level at the time of the shooting was 0.196, or approximately 2.5 times over Hawaii's legal limit of 0.08 to operate a vehicle.
Gordon, who was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division out of Schofield Barracks, led police on a short, but wild chase through Waikiki just before 4 a.m.
The episode began after officers on foot-patrol spotted Gordon driving a blue Dodge pickup in the opposite direction on Nahua Street. When Gordon drove the vehicle onto a sidewalk and came to a stop near Kuhio Avenue, police say he accelerated toward an approaching officer, who then fired his weapon multiple times in self-defense.
As other officers responded to the scene, the pickup was quickly surrounded on Ala Wai Boulevard by a crush of police cruisers. However, video obtained by KITV4 shows Gordon repeatedly ramming his truck into officers’ vehicles, which was then followed by a bevy of gunfire from two additional officers. An autopsy shows Gordon died from a bullet that entered his right shoulder and pierced his heart and lungs.
Honolulu Police spokesperson Michelle Yu said a replica gun was discovered inside the pickup Gordon was driving, but she couldn’t say whether it was in plain view of officers, or if Gordon ever brandished the fake weapon during the confrontation. Yu said no alcohol or drugs were found inside the vehicle, which is not registered to Gordon. Three officers were slightly injured by the ramming of their vehicles, and five police cruisers were damaged.
News of Gordon’s death at the hands of police has shocked the small town where the soldier grew-up just north of the Florida Panhandle. Family friend Meagan Childress said Gordon’s parents are in a state of “shock,” and that a spokesperson would have more to say to the media on Thursday.
A woman whose two daughters grew-up with Gordon told KITV4 the young soldier’s actions on the morning of his death appeared completely out of character.
“It's just unbelievable that he would do anything like that,” said Sonja Swain, who works as a dispatcher for the Ashford Police Department. “Both my girls thought the world of him.”
Gordon served in the U.S. Army as a fire support specialist. Gordon joined the Army in April 2010 and attended basic training at Fort Knox, Ky., and advanced individual training at Fort Sill, Okla. He was assigned to the brigade in August the same year.
Gordon deployed with the unit to Afghanistan in April 2011 and returned from deployment in January 2012.
Gordon's awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Medal, and the Army Service Ribbon.
The three officers who fired at Gordon have been placed on paid administrative leave, standard procedure after a shooting. The case is being investigated by the police department’s Criminal Investigative Division, as well as the Professional Standards Office, which must decide if the officers acted properly.
Waikiki Neighborhood Board chairman Robert Finley said he was saddened to learn the man killed by police was a soldier, but he feels the officers had no choice.
“They were probably worried about not only themselves getting run over, but possibly pedestrians, (or) bicycle operators,” said Finley. “If HPD did not do its job and stop him, or attempt to stop him, and he'd run over a pedestrian from Japan, the newspaper in Japan would say police failed. It's just not a very simple job to do.”
However, others have been critical of police. Local defense attorney Don Wilkerson believes officers may have acted beyond reason when they fired at Gordon.
“The question is when can one man basically summarily execute another man? And that's what happened here,” Wilkerson said Tuesday. “If the police officers do not have reason to believe that he has a weapon with him, they can't guess that he might have a weapon and draw their weapons and shoot him.”
Childress said Gordon has a 1-year-old son, and both the mother and child live with his parents in Ashford.
A spokesperson for the 25th Infantry Division said Gordon had been back on Oahu for nearly a year after being deployed to Afghanistan.