Attack on TSA agent highlights mental health issues

TSA Attack

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A California man says he just wanted to help. He was caught on camera stepping in to stop an assault on a TSA officer at the Honolulu International Airport.

The incident happened last Saturday.

Justin Rogers was behind the security lines when he saw a woman attack a TSA officer. So, he jumped over a rail and took the suspect down.

He was vacationing in the islands from Pinole, Calif., where he’s a police officer.

“Police officer or not, the woman was being assaulted, she was defenseless, had her arms up, trying to her defend herself and somebody needed to help her. Luckily, I was close enough to be able to help her out,” Rogers said.

The suspect is 43-year-old Wailana Haiola, who is homeless.

Haiola was arrested for assault in the third degree and taken to the hospital.

She was later released and has not yet been charged.

According to court documents, Haiola has a history of violence and suffers from mental illness.

KHON2 spoke with a woman who was randomly attacked by Haiola four years ago.

The victim says she worries that the system isn’t working. But a new bill that’s being considered at the legislature might help address that.

Rene Sado wasn’t prepared for how she’d feel when she saw the woman who attacked her four years ago — this time on surveillance video.

“It didn’t hit me until I watched the video when the TSA worker was getting attacked because that’s kind of how she attacked me,” Sado said. “So it brought back a lot of feelings of what I went through.”

Sado says in 2009, she was jogging near the State Capitol when she was blindsided by a punch to the face by Haiola.

“And I fell to the ground and she started grabbing my hair and pounding my head on the ground,” Sado said. “And I was screaming for help and she kept saying ‘You’re gonna die today. I’m gonna kill you.’”

Sado pressed charges, but says that the 90 days Haiola spent in jail was just a slap on the wrist.

“She has a lot of charges against her. What is the state waiting for? For her to kill someone?,” Sado said.

According to court documents, Haiola was found guilty on two other assault charges and numerous violations of TROs.

In some cases, she was unfit to proceed to trial because of mental illness, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Testimony by her family members also claim that she was often high on crystal meth.

“When people have both mental illness and substance abuse and they’re both untreated, then that does raise the likelihood of violence,” said Marya Grambs of Mental Health American of Hawaii.

Grambs says Haiola is a prime example of why senate Bill 310 is necessary.

“This bill would address this kind of person that cycles in and out of hospitals and jails and the streets and they never get adequate treatment for long enough,” Grambs said. “But if they were dangerous, if they were out of control, then the psychiatrist could get them hospitalized.”

The measure advanced through committee and is awaiting a full hearing at the Senate.

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