Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Citizens help catch
bank robbery suspect

A detective on his lunch break
arrests the man after a pursuit
worthy of a TV show

A Honolulu police detective's lunch break was interrupted by a made-for-TV moment yesterday as he commandeered a passing SUV to chase a cab-hopping bank robbery suspect.

The roughly 11-minute chase turned into a community effort with two eager volunteers finally stopping the suspect about a mile from the bank.

Detective Rob Cravalho had just finished his lunch when he spotted a man running out of American Savings Bank at 1600 Kapiolani Boulevard at 1:43 p.m. Cravalho said a teller ran outside and told him the man had robbed the bank.

Cravalho said he called 911 and saw the suspect get into a cab at the corner of Kaheka and Makaloa streets and head Kokohead-bound.


The detective then stepped into the middle of Kapiolani, stopped traffic and asked for a ride.

"I stopped this poor girl in an SUV and said, 'You're not going to believe this, but I'm a police officer and I need you to follow this cab,'" said Cravalho. "She had her surfboard between the driver and passenger side of her car ... I think she was going to the beach."

Cravalho said the driver agreed and they followed the cab to the corner of Kapiolani and Pumehana Street, where the suspect left the cab and walked through the gate of an apartment building. Cravalho said he got out of the car, thanked the girl and chased the suspect.

"I think she was happy to see me go," he said.

Cravalho followed the suspect over the McCully Bridge, but lost sight of him. A pedestrian said he saw a guy take off his shirt, change into a pink shirt and run to Niu Street. Cravalho ran a block to Niu and Ala Wai Boulevard where came upon two male bystanders.

"I asked them if they saw the guy with the pink shirt and they said, 'Yeah, he ran down Niu Street,'" said Cravalho. "Then they asked me 'Why, what he did?' and I told them he robbed a bank so they said 'Shoots brah, let's go!'"

All three started running down Niu Street, where they saw the suspect get into another cab. Cravalho yelled for the cab driver to stop, which he did. But the suspect got out and started running toward Kalakaua Avenue.

"He got out and turned on the afterburners," said Cravalho. "Up to this point, the suspect didn't know he was being followed."

Cravalho said the two volunteers chased the suspect, who ran behind the Local Motion store along Kalakaua and then back up the next road on Pau Street. Cravalho tried to cut through backyards and homes to get in front of the suspect. But he picked the wrong short-cut, found himself facing a brick wall and was forced to backtrack.

"I was out of the chase at that point," he said. "Thank God for the two bruddahs."

Cravalho said he caught up to the two men who had already were holding the suspect on Pau Street. A patrolman handcuffed the suspect and Cravalho's chase was over.

"If not for the teller coming out and looking for direction of flight, the female motorist, the pedestrian that pointed out the shirt and the two bruddahs, there's no way I could have caught this guy," said Cravalho. "But that's what the community has to do.

"Police are charged with protecting the community but it's when the community helps out, that's when criminals get caught. I couldn't have done this myself."

The suspect was arrested for suspicion of bank robbery as well as for an outstanding $50,000 warrant for allegedly breaking into a motor vehicle.

Honolulu police said they want to locate the motorist who assisted Cravalho to thank her. Anyone with information about her is asked to call the police media relations office at 529-3238.

Star-Bulletin reporter Michelle Mueller contributed to this report.


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