Witnesses describe events before killing
A woman who said she was standing next to accused killer Less Schnabel Jr. when he fatally punched a man in the head last year said she believed the victim was a police officer.
Schnabel, 22, is on trial in state court for manslaughter in connection with the death of prospective University of Hawaii law school student Christopher Reuther in April 2007. His lawyer said Schnabel punched Reuther, 34, in self-defense.
Schnabel is also on trial for unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle for allegedly taking a bag out of Reuther's rental car in the Nanakuli Beach Park parking lot.
Prosecution witness Nicole Ako said she and Schnabel were standing in front of a public bathroom at Nanakuli Beach Park at about 11 p.m. April 22, 2007, when Reuther came up from behind and snapped a picture of them.
She said that startled and upset her and Schnabel because she thought Reuther might be a police officer, and she believed Schnabel thought the same thing.
Ako said Schnabel told Reuther to leave the park.
She said as Reuther walked toward his car, she followed him, introduced herself and asked him why he was there.
"He said he was just going take pictures of the Hawaiians," Ako said.
She said she told Reuther that he should go because the park is a dangerous place, especially at that late hour. As Reuther was putting his camera into his car, Ako said, Schnabel arrived, again told Reuther to leave the park and punched him.
Ako said she gave a statement to police about a week after the incident to tell Schnabel's side of the story.
"The only reason why I wen' speak up because he was my friend, I was there and I don't think he wen' hit the guy intentionally for kill him," she said.
But defense witness Kristie Reverio said Ako was nowhere near Schnabel when she saw Schnabel punch Reuther. And Reverio said she, not Ako, was standing next to Schnabel in front of the bathroom when Reuther came from behind and snapped a picture.
She said Schnabel asked Reuther what he was doing, and Reuther said he was taking a picture of a stop sign. She said Reuther then mockingly flashed his camera in front of them as if to show them the picture he took, then started walking away backward with a smirk on his face toward his car.
Reverio said Schnabel told Reuther he could not do that there and told him to leave. At that point, she said, Reuther started walking back toward Schnabel, took off his camera bag from around his neck, put it on the ground and said, "You cannot tell me what fo' do."
That was when Schnabel punched Reuther, Reverio said.
She said Reuther took two steps back and fell to the ground. He attempted to get up but fell forward, she said.
Reuther was taken to Hawaii Medical Center West in critical condition. He died of a brain hemorrhage four days later when he was taken off life support.