I just saw the
carpet turning red
Shin thought someoneWhat's next
was pulling a prank, just
shooting paint balls
Memories of the victims By Suzanne Tswei
Moments before Ron Kawamae and Jason Balatico were shot to death in the computer room at the Xerox warehouse they were smiling and laughing, talking about their recent outings at a bar, said Randal Shin, an eye-witness to the shooting who testified this morning in the Byran Uyesugi murder trial.
"I was printing out a report on my lap top and I just heard an explosion sound behind my head," said Shin, who was sitting next to Kawamae, "It was really loud; I could almost feel the explosion."
Kawamae, who was to Shin's left, slumped in the chair and blood gushed out of his head, Shin said. Prosecutors describe Shin as the man "deselected for death" by Uyesugi during a shooting rampage when seven people were killed at the Xerox warehouse on Nov. 2.
"I thought some kind of prank was going on," Shin said, thinking someone was firing paint balls.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Uyesugi standing at the doorway behind him, holding a gun with both hands, Shin said.
Shin demonstrated to the court how Uyesugi had his arms stretched out as he pointed the gun in the room.
Then Balatico, who was standing toward the back of the room facing the door, charged forward, Shin said. "He was trying to make an exit through the door," Shin said. A series of gunshots followed, and Shin saw Balatico slump to the floor.
"All I could see was dust and smoke. It was just filling the air," Shin said about the shooting. After the loud gunshots, "I just saw the carpet turning red," he said.
Shin went to the door and saw Ronald Yamanaka, a Xerox field supervisor, running down the hallway toward him, he said. Yamanaka, who had been drinking coffee and reading the newspaper in a break room, was trying to run out of the building after hearing gunshots from the conference room where five men were shot and killed.
"What's going on?" Shin said he asked Yamanaka.
"Did you hear the gunshots?" Shin recalled Yamanaka asking.
"Was that for real?" Shin said he replied.
"Sounds real to me," Yamanaka said.
The two men ran down the stairs and out the front door of the Xerox building. Shin then hid behind cars in the parking lot and saw Steve Matsuda run out the door.
Prosecutors contend that Uyesugi spared Shin and intended to kill Matsuda.
Uyesugi's attorneys say their client suffers from a delusional disorder and could not tell right from wrong. They are raising the insanity defense and mitigating defense of extreme emotional and mental distress.
Under cross examination from defense attorney Jerel Fonseca, Shin said he was startled and surprised by the gunshots.
When Fonseca questioned Shin's report to police that he did not see who the gunman was, Shin replied that he probably wasn't in his right mind when he first talked to police.
"I did see him ... I do remember what I saw," Shin said.
"I was numb at that time," and remained numb for "quite a while," Shin said, describing himself as being in shock.
Yesterday, Yamanaka testified that he saw Uyesugi, with his back to him, shoot Uyesugi's supervisor, Melvin Lee, in a conference room.
"I saw his back in a shooting position, two hands in front of him (aiming) at Melvin, and I saw Melvin jerk back," Yamanaka said, clasping both hands in front of him to demonstrate.
Although Uyesugi's back was turned, Yamanaka said he recognized him because he had seen Uyesugi moments earlier in a break room.
Asked to describe his co-worker, Yamanaka said Uyesugi wasn't outgoing, "but I didn't find him unusually quiet."
He said he never saw Uyesugi angry, agitated or out of control.
During cross-examination Fonseca grilled Yamanaka on inconsistent statements he had made to police on separate occasions.
Yamanaka told police initially that he didn't see Uyesugi about to shoot someone, but did so a few days later.
"I think that was blacked from my mind," he said, attributing the inconsistencies to a "poor" state of mind.
"A couple days later, everything fall in place," Yamanaka said.
He didn't even recall hearing gunshots when he saw Lee fall, he said. "I guess I was more interested in getting out of there than anything else."
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Circuit Judge Marie Milks said yesterday the case is moving ahead of schedule. The state expects to take at least three weeks before resting its case.
Expected to testify this week:
HPD employees: James Vadset, Darryl Jones, Stacy Riede, Kristin Asmus, Banks McMillan, Leslie Murakami, Curtis Kubo, Diane O'Reilly;
Chief Medical Examiner Alvin Omori;
Other witnesses include Charlie Davis, Donald Lee, Russell Inaba, Michelle Arelliano, Jerry Watanabe, Clyde Nitta and Lori Ogawa.
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A final kiss
goodbye, and then ...
Victims' wives describeBy Debra Barayuga
precious last moments
with their husbands
Her husband's voice calling, "Lynnie, time to get up," woke Lynn Kataoka the morning of Nov. 2, 1999.
It was a morning like any other. Husband Ron had already risen at his usual time about 4:15 a.m., made coffee, read the newspaper and turned on his laptop computer to update his parts inventory.
Because of his military background, her husband was good at beating the alarm before it rang.
"We gave each other a hug and say good morning."
Ron Kataoka had a meeting at work that morning and the boss was going to be there, so he couldn't be late, she said.
"Before he left, he hugged me and I kissed him and told him, 'drive carefully.'"
Wives who lost husbands in the Xerox shootings shared a glimpse yesterday of the last words or moments they shared with their spouses that fateful morning.
Before the morning had even begun, seven families had lost fathers, brothers, cousins, and grandfathers.
In one of the trial's lighter moments, Merry Balatico elicited laughter when describing her husband's love for practical jokes. "He liked to make people laugh."
Her husband replaced the light in the bathroom with a sensor light that turned on automatically. If someone stayed on the toilet long enough, the light would go off by itself, she said.
While the spouses or family members weren't present during the shootings, there's a reason for the prosecution including their testimony, experts say.
One element the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the defendant caused the death of another human being.
This element can be introduced in various ways, such as a medical examiner explaining how an individual died and cause of death.
Courts give a certain amount of leeway for humanizing victims, but up to a certain point, said criminal defense attorney Howard Luke.
Courts must balance whether the evidence proves a material issue against the prejudicial effect it would have on the defendant's right to a fair trial. If it is so prejudicial, then the court will exclude the evidence.
In this case, Prosecutor Peter Carlisle elicited personal information from their husband's hobbies to how long the couples had been married.
In allowing the questioning, it appeared the judge felt the evidence was relevant to the issue of whether a death was caused, Luke said.
Hearing a spouse talk about how she met her husband and how many years they have been married can be very compelling, Luke said.
"It's important in a murder case to resurrect the victim and have that victim placed before the jury in all his or her humanity," he said.
The last time Lorna Kanehira spoke to her husband was when he called her on his way to work that morning.
Instead of commuting to work together as they usually did, Kanehira stayed home with their son, who was sick. The couple had coffee together before Ford Kanehira left the house.
Before heading to town, he detoured to their son's school to pick up his homework before heading to Xerox.
"He called me on his cellular phone to say he had a lot of homework -- that's the last time I heard from him."
Family members of the seven men killed on Nov. 2, 1999, took the stand yesterday in emotional testimony. Highlights of their remembrances:
Widows, son recall
their loved ones
Ann Lee, married to Melvin Lee: That day, her husband arose before she did, and made sure she was up before he left about 6:30 a.m. for a meeting with his work team. He liked to golf.
Susan Sakamoto, married to John Sakamoto: Described husband as a noted fisherman who loved the ocean and went fishing every weekend. After his daughter and son arrived, "his family came first."
Reid Kawamae, son of Ron Kawamae: "He practiced all kind karaoke -- Japanese, Korean."
Merry Lynn Balatico, married to Jason Balatico: Both lived in San Jose 3 years before moving to Hawaii. "We didn't want to deny our children their grandparents, cousins, aunties, uncles."
Lorna Kanehira, married to Ford Kanehira: Her husband was part of a "lunch bunch" at Xerox that included Jerry Watanabe and John Sakamoto. The men frequented "Jun Bo's (restaurant), twice a week."
Lynn Kataoka, married to Ron Kataoka: They were apart many times, including in 1969 when he served in the 25th Infantry in Vietnam as a "chunker man," carrying a grenade launcher. They wrote each other daily.
Karen Mark, married to Peter Mark: She scattered her husband's ashes in waters off Waikiki because "He liked being outdoors and he knew I didn't like graves."
Debra Barayuga, Star-Bulletin