5 felons allegedly had guns
Federal prosecutors have leveled their sights on five felons recently accused of possessing firearms.
U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo said the arrests should send a strong message to other felons who possess firearms.
"If you cannot follow the law, then we will remove you from our communities, and we will put you away for as long as we possibly can," Kubo said yesterday.
He credited Project Safe Neighborhoods, a federal program started six years ago in Hawaii to prosecute felons caught with firearms.
In the program's first year, federal authorities prosecuted more than 150 people with firearms in Hawaii, responsible for about 3,300 prior arrests and 1,000 convictions between them. Last year the U.S. Attorney's Office prosecuted 62 people responsible for about 880 prior arrests and 200 prior convictions.
"This program works because it removes hardened predators from our streets," Kubo said. "And I truly believe it saves lives and potential victims in our communities."
The five most recent arrests included:
» Kadon Zimmerman, 30, who had a pistol and shotgun during an eight-hour standoff with Maui police on Feb. 25. The standoff was at the Harbor Lights Condominiums in Kahului, where Zimmerman was allegedly high on crystal methamphetamine. Zimmerman also allegedly fired a shot. He has 33 prior arrests and 14 convictions, including assault and family abuse.
» Gregory Ritter, 29, has 60 prior arrests and 17 convictions. He was arrested Sunday for alleged auto theft and was found with a .45-caliber revolver, 25 rounds of ammunition and suspected crystal methamphetamine. Ritter's past convictions include auto theft and abuse.
» Mario Tuua, 25, allegedly tried to discard a bag containing a pistol when he was caught on March 7 in an alleged drug transaction on River Street. He has three prior arrests in Hawaii and in California, with two convictions for assault with a dangerous weapon and robbery. He also allegedly was found with almost eight grams of crack cocaine.
» Romerick Tabuyo, 30, has 23 prior arrests and 10 convictions, including terroristic threatening and various drug charges. On March 6 he was allegedly found with drugs and several guns in Aiea.
» Usai Musika, 36, has 43 prior arrests and 13 convictions, including auto theft and assault. On Feb. 28 he was found in Kauai's Nawiliwili Park, where he was allegedly threatening another man with a handgun. Musika allegedly struck a police officer before being restrained.
Kubo said the maximum penalty for being a felon with a firearm is 10 years in prison. Tuua also faces up to 20 years because of his alleged cocaine possession.
Tracy Elder, resident agent in charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said the prosecutions are not just about guns.
"They have to get their money or the drugs somewhere," he said. "And most of them obtain the money through burglaries, property crime, and that's where they come up with firearms as well as the income to support their drug habit."
Federal officials said 90 percent of convictions in Project Safe Neighborhoods involved drug activity, and that the program removes the suspects from their drug network because they are moved to the mainland.