Since 1966, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has recognized one law enforcement officer – in a few cases multiple officers – who exemplified outstanding and heroic achievement. While the name of the award may have changed during that time, the honor has not. To celebrate 50 years of awardees, the IACP will be featuring in-depth stories about some of the past Police Officer of the Year winners.
On February 16, 1992, Sergeant David Foumai of the Honolulu Police Department learned the true meaning of never being “off-duty” as someone in his own neighborhood was in harm’s way.
Sgt. Foumai was enjoying his evening with his pregnant wife and two young daughters when he heard a gunshot come from outside. He couldn’t tell where it came from or what was going on, but after hearing a second shot, he knew he was close enough to intervene. He looked out his window and noticed a man aiming what looked like a shotgun at a woman. Sgt. Foumai knew immediately he needed to help and told his wife to call 911 and then hide in the apartment with their daughters. Realizing the danger of the situation, his wife was terrified as he left- barefoot and in only a tank top and shorts.
As Sgt. Foumai approached the scene, he witnessed the suspect pulling the woman by her hair towards his vehicle with his shotgun in hand. The suspect was released from prison only a few days prior and was currently under the influence of crystal meth. Sgt. Foumai caught the suspect off guard and commanded him to drop his weapon. The suspect refused to drop the gun and even said to Sgt. Foumai, “What, you gonna shoot me?” Sgt. Foumai felt like his life, and the life of the woman were in danger, and he was eventually given no choice but to pull the trigger. Two hours after being shot by Sgt. Foumai, the suspect died from his injuries.
Sgt. Foumai later learned that the suspect had waited all day for the woman, who was his ex-girlfriend, and her current boyfriend to come home. When they arrived, the suspect shot the woman’s boyfriend in the leg, which was the first gunshot that caught Sgt. Foumai’s attention. The suspect then attempted to shoot his ex-girlfriend but missed her head by mere inches, which was the shot that made Sgt. Foumai rush outside. The female victim stated that her ex-boyfriend said that he was going to kill her and then kill himself.
In the meantime, Sgt. Foumai’s wife was watching the incident from their apartment but when she heard Sgt. Foumai gunshots, she was unsure who had fired and worried about her husband’s safety. At the time, Sgt. Foumai said “it was a miracle she didn’t go into labor right then.”
The victim told Sgt. Foumai she was grateful he intervened because the only thing she could think about were her five children and who would care for them if she died. When she mentioned her children, Sgt. Foumai thought about his time as a father. He began to think about his own family and how they’d be taken care of if he was killed.
One month after the incident, Sgt. Foumai’s wife gave birth to their son, Kawika Foumai, now an officer with the Honolulu Police Department. Even though Officer Foumai wasn’t born when his dad committed this act of bravery, his dad’s personality, actions, and mindset had a clear impact on his path of life.
“Throughout my life, my dad has always supported me in whatever I chose to do,” said Officer Foumai, “When I graduated high school, my father did not even mention to me about becoming a police officer. He just wanted me to become something I can be proud of. When I finally shared with my father about my career choice in becoming a police officer, he became excited. If I could say one last thing to my father before he leaves for his last day, I would say to have fun and keep doing what you always do.”
Sgt. Foumai was awarded the Gold Medal of Valor by the Honolulu Police Department and the Police Officer of the Year Award by the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 1992. He will be retiring in the fall of 2016 with 30 years on the job and he will be passing the torch on to his son.
“I’m just glad I could make a difference during my career and the fact that I can look back and say that I did alright,” said Sgt. David Foumai. We could not agree more.
Do you know a police officer who should be nominated for Police Officer of the Year? Nominate them now! Applications are due Friday, July 15, 2016.