Mugged Bush aide OK in D.C.
HPD defends the city's safety record after the official's assault makes national news
A 25-year-old White House aide returned to Washington, D.C., yesterday after he was assaulted and robbed in Waikiki during President Bush's visit -- a mugging that gave a figurative black eye to Hawaii's reputation.
Gregg Pitts, acting director of the White House Travel Office, was released from a hospital after he suffered a broken nose as well as bruises and cuts to his face.
Pitts is doing OK and is in pretty good shape, said Jim Fulton, spokesman for the city prosecutor's office.
But the crime made national news yesterday, which led city officials to defend the island's safety record.
"On Oahu our crime rate has been going down for the last 3 1/2 years," Police Chief Boisse Correa said. "And Waikiki is a very safe place -- our crime rate in Waikiki has been down over the past couple of years."
Mayor Mufi Hannemann said the incident was unfortunate "for anyone that has to undergo a very negative experience in paradise" and that it does not bode well for Waikiki's image.
"This doesn't help us at all in terms of the positive message that we want to send out," he said. "These things happen. We don't think it's indicative at all of how our visitor industry experience is in general."
City Councilman Charles Djou, whose district includes Waikiki, said Waikiki has had its share of image problems over the past year, most notably the massive sewage spill that closed the beach earlier in 2006.
"This year has not been the greatest for us in terms of worldwide publicity," Djou said. "I just hope it goes away fairly quickly."
According to a source, Pitts and some of his friends were at Bobby G's Spot, a bar at the International Market Place, at about 2 a.m. Tuesday.
Pitts walked out of the bar alone to smoke a cigarette when three suspects assaulted him.
The assault happened at the entrance of J.R. Chinese Buffet Garden, near the bar. Two security guards saw Pitts walking around in front of the restaurant with blood on his face and head.
The source said Pitts was looking for his wallet and appeared disoriented.
There were no reported witnesses to the assault and robbery. No arrests have been made.
International Market Place provides security 24 hours, seven days a week, according to spokeswoman Rebecca Pollard.
Correa said Waikiki is adequately staffed with police officers.
"We have foot officers there, we have vice and other supplemental officers there so it is a safe location," the police chief said. "We are concerned any time anyone gets injured -- that's one too many."
The Victim's Assistance Program of the city prosecutor's office, in conjunction with police and the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, assisted Pitts following the assault and robbery.
Police provided a letter of verification of identification for Pitts' return to the mainland, Fulton said. Pitts' wallet and identification cards were stolen at the time of the assault, police said.
Anyone who has information on the three suspects is asked to call police.