Man free after killing intruder
Police say the alleged burglar was on drugs when he was stabbed
A 26-year-old Honolulu man who was arrested after stabbing to death a suspected burglar was released yesterday by Honolulu police.
The Honolulu Medical Examiner's Office also determined that the man who was stabbed, identified as 25-year-old Greg Hunter, was high on crystal methamphetamine at the time of his death. Hunter was taken to the Queen's Medical Center in critical condition Sunday afternoon but died later due to stab wounds to his heart and lung, according to autopsy results.
Police officials would not talk about details of the case, but only said that officers had an obligation to arrest the man, even if it turns out that he was defending himself. The man was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder but was released pending investigation.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Investigators' gloves and drops of blood leading away from the door remained yesterday at 1727 Dole St., where a fatal stabbing took place late Sunday night.
"The reason is someone was killed, and we have a responsibility to investigate the case to find whether the physical evidence is consistent or inconsistent," said HPD spokesman Capt. Frank Fujii. "We have to open up that homicide investigation."
A source close to the investigation said the suspected intruder walked up to the resident's apartment at 1727 Dole St. at about 2:45 p.m. Sunday, and threatened both the man and his girlfriend through their locked screen door. The couple told police they were puzzled because they did not know the victim, but he soon left their door.
About 40 minutes later, however, the man returned and allegedly broke the front window of the resident's unit and tried to reach in and open the door from the inside, according to the source. The resident called police, and the alleged intruder took off again.
When police arrived, the resident filled out a burglary and terroristic-threatening report, and officers searched the area for the man but with no success, the source said.
After police left, however, the resident and his girlfriend were cleaning up outside their window when the man, later identified as Hunter, returned and allegedly ran toward them. According to the source, the couple tried to get in the house and lock the door, but Hunter ran into them, knocking the resident's girlfriend to the floor, and ending up lying on top of her.
The resident grabbed a kitchen knife and fought with Hunter, eventually stabbing him several times, according to the source.
Hunter was described as the larger of the two men, about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing more than 200 pounds, while the resident who stabbed him is about 5 feet 7 inches tall and about 150 pounds.
Fujii said people have a right to defend themselves but that they should expect to be questioned afterward, especially if lethal force is involved.
"But they also need to realize that if they're going to use self-defense as a justification, they need to be able to prove that," he said. "That's why we say confrontation is the last resort."
City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said he could not talk about the case specifically, but pointed out that state law allows the use of deadly force if someone believes that deadly force is necessary to protect himself against death or serious bodily injury.
"It's got to be objectively reasonable," he said. "If you find a burglar in your house, and he says, 'You got me,' and lies down and puts his hands behind his back, you can't hit him over the head."
"On the other hand, if someone comes in and brandishes a knife, says he's going to kill you and takes two steps towards you, you have a right to defend yourself.
"These are two extreme examples, and everything else in between can happen ... but basically if they aren't a threat to your safety, you can't attack them."
Defense lawyer William Harrison said, "Hawaii law requires you to retreat.
"It sounds kind of ludicrous ... someone enters your house and you can't use deadly force to protect yourself and your property," he said.
Hawaii laws differ from other states such as Texas, where deadly force is permitted to protect property and person, he said.
"Only in a situation where there is no basis to retreat" is deadly force permitted under the law, he said. "Basically, what Hawaii law is saying is you can't take the law into your own hands."
Defense lawyer Keith Shigetomi said that under the circumstances in the Dole Street case, it was not necessary for police to arrest the resident to question him.
"You don't have to arrest someone to take a statement from someone," he said.
Additionally, the intruder appeared to be struggling with the woman, and the resident "has the right to protect someone else if that person is being attacked."
Shigetomi said if police believe he was justified and have no intention of charging the resident, "they should let him know immediately because that's a big red flag to have on his record," adding there is no statute of limitations for murder.