Wednesday, May 23, 2001

At St. Augustine Church in Waikiki yesterday, Father
Tomas held a postcard of what the statue looked like
before being vandalized. At back right is a pedestal
and what remains of the statue.

Waikiki statue
of saint smashed

A vandal destroyed a century-old
statue at St. Augustine Church

By Rod Antone
Star Bulletin

The statue of St. Augustine in Waikiki no longer stands before the church that bears the saint's name.

The Rev. Thomas Choo of St. Augustine Church said he did not know long the statue stood in front of the property, only that it was more than a century old.

"This is a terrible thing to do," said Choo. "People ask me, 'Why did this happen?' and I say I don't know."

On May 13 at about 1:20 a.m., witnesses told police that they saw an unknown male smash the statue to pieces.

Residents living in apartment buildings above St. Augustine, at 130 Ohua St., woke up that morning because of a "banging noise," said police Detective Maggie Hirakawa.

She said witnesses saw a man smashing the statue with a long object.

Hirakawa said even after the witnesses yelled at the man to stop, he continued to strike the statue.

"Two witnesses who heard the noise said something to the effect of 'What the heck are you doing?'" said Hirakawa. "It's senseless. He just beat it until it was totally gone."

Hirakawa said according to witnesses, the suspect dropped what was later identified as a 3-foot copper pipe, scaled the fence that surrounds the church, then fled in the Ewa direction on Kalakaua Avenue. Hirakawa said the motives for the damage could be anything ranging from a grudge with the church to some sort of gang initiation.

Hirakawa said the pipe the suspect left behind is an important clue because it appeared to have been brought in by the suspect and was not from church property or the surrounding area.

Police have dusted the pipe for fingerprints. Hirakawa also said that a crime of this type should mean that other people know who did it.

"Somebody that did it has got to be talking to somebody," she said.

Choo said the church has had its share of problems in the past. "We always have people trying to steal money out of the candle box, the poor box," he recalled.

"The week before that, someone broke into the Damien Museum office, but they didn't take anything."

The statue has been valued at $5,000, said Hirakawa, and is uninsured, according to Choo.

"Church property like that, the premiums are very high. It's like fine art," said Choo. "I told the janitor to keep the pieces that were worthwhile, but the rest was pulverized."

St. Augustine is the only Catholic church located in Waikiki and has humble beginnings. It was first built in 1839 with coconut fronds and pieces of wood washed ashore, according to the church's own Web site. Choo said the present church was built in 1962.

Church visitors can still buy postcards that show the St. Augustine statue facing toward Kalakaua Avenue.

Because the value of the statue is more than $1,500, its destruction is a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

When Choo was asked if he would forgive the vandal if he came in for confession, Choo said yes, but added that he would still press charges.

"I would have to tell him, 'Listen, bruddah, you have to own up to this because this is a serious crime that you did,'" said Choo. "You owe the people to replace that statue. It's more than a hundred years old."

The suspect is described as an 18- to 20-year-old male, 5 feet 6 inches tall, 140 pounds, with black hair and a tan complexion.

Hirakawa said the suspect was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and faded or whitewashed jeans.

Anyone with information about the case can call Detective Hirakawa at 529-3085.

E-mail to City Desk

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