Victoria police officers hailed as heroes after stopping sexual assault during Hawaii vacation

Young board surfers ride storm-driven waves under the seawall on Ali'i Drive in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. AP Photo/Chris Stewart

A pair of Victoria police officers are being hailed as heroes after intervening to stop a sexual assault while vacationing in Hawaii.

The incident allegedly happened on Dec. 20 in Kona, on Hawaii’s Big Island, where constables Hayley Swann and Brent Keddell were staying.

According to Victoria police, Swann and Keddell were out for a morning run when they heard what sounded like cries for help and screaming.

After running towards the sounds, they saw two distraught women, one of them visibly injured, being closely followed by a man in the process of assaulting them.

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That’s when the off-duty officers intervened, according to Victoria Police Chief Del Manak.

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“I think the officers’ instincts kicked in quite quickly,” Manak said.

“When they realized the seriousness of what had actually occurred, they knew they had to ensure police were en route and the man was held in custody.”

According to Hawaii News Now, the suspect — identified as Justin Bardwell — allegedly exposed himself to the two women and held one of them against her will before the Victoria police officers showed up.

While Swann attended to the women and asked them what happened, Keddell approached the suspect while helping another witness provide accurate information to 911 dispatchers.

“The witness wasn’t aware of what actually transpired other than he had heard screaming from these women,” Manak said.

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“He was also quite distraught.”

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Hawaii police then quickly responded and arrested the suspect, which Manak said was possible because of the expertise the two Victoria police officers brought to the situation.

“Between the two of them, they have 40 years of policing experience,” he said. “Talk about being at the right place at the right time.

“I’m just very grateful and really, really thankful for the officers, who were off-duty, that they ran and assisted someone who was in immediate need of help.”

Bardwell, who was already facing arson charges, has now been charged with sex assault and kidnapping. Bail was set at $11,750.

He pleaded not guilty at his court appearance Thursday, and a trial has been set for March of this year.

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Manak said the charges speak to how the incident could have ended tragically if not for his officers’ actions.

“You hear about these stories, and usually help is not close by,” he said.

“I think for [the officers’] instincts to kick in, for them to take the action and yet still make sure their safety wasn’t compromised, I think is a credit to who they are.”

Swann and Keddell have already testified in the preliminary hearing held on Christmas Eve, and are already making arrangements to testify at the trial in March, Manak said.

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