Friday, June 25, 1999

Wahiawa robber suspect
released pending trial

By Debra Barayuga


A Hauula man has been granted supervised release pending trial for a botched robbery at a Wahiawa grocery, in which the owner's wife was shot in the face.

Circuit Judge Michael Town, over strong objections by prosecutors, yesterday allowed Damien Kaahu, 26, to enter a residential Christian-based program until his August trial.

Kaahu, one of three defendants, has been in custody since January, unable to post $150,000 bail.

Also charged with first-degree robbery in the case were Roland Ragasa, 32, of Pearl City; Farrington Governor Santos, 25, of Kalihi; and Tomas Quirantes, 20, of Kahuku.

Santos committed suicide earlier this year.

Quirantes, accused of shooting Pok Cha Fithian when she walked in on the robbery attempt and of attempting to shoot her husband, Paul, also faces charges of first-degree attempted murder, two counts of second-degree attempted murder and two firearm offenses.

At the very worst, Kaahu's role in the incident was that of an accomplice, said deputy public defender Stuart Fujioka. "He did not go into the store."

Deputy Prosecutor Mark McConnell argued that Kaahu posed a danger to the community and that the live-in program in Waianae did not provide adequate control over Kaahu's activities.

The program, run by the Shield of Faith Christian Ministry, also does not adequately address the drug issue and dangerousness of the offense Kaahu is charged with, McConnell said.

Edward Romo, director of My Brother's Keeper, said the program helps steer its residents away from drugs and lifestyles that brought them there in the first place.

Kaahu, charged with first-degree robbery, allegedly drove the car and the three others to California Market Jan. 8 because they needed money to buy more crystal methamphetamine, McConnell said. The men allegedly had been smoking "ice" previously.

Although he did not accompany Quirantes and Santos into the store, Kaahu knew Quirantes intended to use a gun, McConnell argued.

During the drive to the store, Quirantes allegedly told the others that if anyone got in his way, he'd kill them and not just scare them.

Kaahu also gave very detailed information to Quirantes -- the alleged shooter -- on their destination, what Quirantes could expect once inside the store and who would be inside, McConnell said.

Pok Cha Fithian suffered a life-threatening injury and her husband Paul could have been killed had the gun not malfunctioned, McConnell said.

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