Wednesday, December 30, 1998

Oahu has lowest
homicide rate
in 30 years

The 20 homicides in 1998
represent a 41 percent decline
from last year alone

By Jaymes K. Song


The last year there were as few homicides on Oahu as this year, Richard Nixon was elected president, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Hawaii was in its 9th year of statehood and the Green Bay Packers beat the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II.

The 20 homicides so far this year on Oahu are the least since 1968, and represent a 41 percent drop from 1997, when 34 were killed, according to statistics compiled by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Of the 20 slayings, three involved men shot by police officers, which are also classified as homicide cases. In two police shootings, officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing. One case is still being reviewed.

"It's wonderful news for a prosecutor, but it's obviously not good enough news," said Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle. "As long as there's one death on Oahu and one death in the state of Hawaii to the crime of murder, there's one too many.


"(The decline) suggests that the pieces are functioning better now than they have in the past," Carlisle added. "It's not one component part. It's community involvement, new policing techniques, public safety keeping people in prison. All of those parts working together ends up reducing crime rates in general."

Honolulu Police Lt. Allen Napoleon, head of the homicide detail, linked the decline to several programs in domestic violence, anger management, gang prevention and substance abuse.

David Johnson, a University of Hawaii criminology professor, said that the decline is a "pleasant mystery," but that without in-depth analysis it would be hard to explain.

On the mainland, major cities have reported declines in violent crimes following a big increase from the late 1980s to the early 90s, he noted, a rise that has been attributed to youth murders connected with firearms and the crack-cocaine epidemic.

But Johnson discredits the assertion that the growing prison population is in part responsible for the decrease in murders.

He said when prison population goes up, and people are locked up longer, there has been little impact on the violent crime rate. That is because people continue to commit crimes in prison and because most crimes are done in groups. Incarcerating one person isn't going to stop the group, he said.

Mayor Jeremy Harris said the low homicide rate and an overall crime rate, which has decreased 30 percent in the past three years, has again made Honolulu the safest major city in the country.

Honolulu has about one homicide for every five in a mainland city of comparable size. This year's number will make the difference even greater, Carlisle said.

Harris gave credit to the police, the community and new domestic violence programs such as Pu'uhonua, formerly named the Domestic Violence Response Team.

art In 12 of the 20 deaths this year, victims and killers knew each other. Six were considered domestic violence killings including husband / wife, boyfriend / girlfriend, children and siblings.

One case, which was an apparent robbery attempt, is listed as "unknown relation."

Fifteen of the 20 victims were male, averaging about 36 years of age. Four of the five slayings involving females were classified as domestic violence killings. The females' average age was about 30.

Physical force accounted for eight of the 20 deaths on Oahu this year. Then came firearms (six), knives (five) and one case with a blunt object.

Alcohol or drug use and accessibility of the weapon greatly increases the chance of murder, officials said.

In addition to being down this year, the homicide rate also shows a decline for the past three decades.

In the 1990s, there has been an average of 31 homicides a year on the island. During the 1980s, there was an average of about 39 homicides a year, and in the 1970s, there was an average of nearly 43.

In the past 30 years, the most homicides were in 1974 -- 62 -- and in 1980 -- 65.

Some of the declines by decade can be credited to a reduction in the number of murders by organized crime syndicates, Napoleon said. Also, improved medical care has helped save more critically injured people.

In a surprise to some, the recent declines are happening during difficult financial times, with thousands being laid off, a record number of bankruptcies, an increased use of the crystal methamphetamines and an understaffed police force seeking pay equal to West Coast counterparts.

There has been only one unsolved murder in 1998 -- the slaying of 69-year-old Samuel Gilbert in Waikiki, police said. Gilbert was stabbed in an apparent robbery attempt.


Homicides on
Oahu in 1998

There have been only 20 murders committed on Oahu this year, the lowest total since 1968. Listed are descriptions of each one:


Jan. 1: Off-duty police officer Teneri Maafala shot and killed 18-year-old Benedict Manupule at the Mayor Wright Housing project in Kalihi. Manupule was reportedly firing a handgun into the air when Maafala ordered him to drop the weapon. Manupule allegedly fired a round at Maafala before he was shot.


Jan. 5: Angela Rodriguez's body was found in her car at Puu O Mahuku Heiau in Pupukea. Her husband, Army Sgt. Jose Rodriguez, told police that he and his wife, 22, had been abducted and taken there. Sgt. Rodriguez, 27, was later sentenced to 30 years in prison following an admission he strangled her after accusing her of having an affair.


Jan. 22: Three police officers fired 20 shots at Rodney Laulusa, 30, and shot him 15 times at the Palolo Valley Housing. Laulusa was wielding two fishing knives and reportedly lunged at officers. However, some witnesses contend Laulusa never moved toward the officers. Officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing.


Jan. 24: Seven-week-old Kaia Branch was found with head injuries from blunt trauma. She died Jan. 25 at Wahiawa Hospital. Her 23-year-old father, Schofield Barracks soldier Carl Branch, was charged with the murder.


Feb. 26: Donald Robinson, 44, a homeless man, was found beaten to death on Nimitz Highway near Puuloa Road. Joel Young, 41, an acquaintance, was charged with the murder.


Feb. 27: Jolene Shott, 35, was found strangled in her Waikiki apartment. Shott's estranged boyfriend, Steven Villa, was charged with strangling her.


March 8: Veteran James Insco, 59, died after being in a coma for nearly four years. He was beaten in a robbery on Lanakila and North School streets April 17, 1994. Five men, aged 16 to 23, were indicted in connection with the murder.


March 29: Ronald Ching, 61, died following a fight at an after-work party at Campbell Industrial Park. Pisaina Tupai, 37, pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree assault. Tupai was accused of striking Ching, who then fell to the ground and hit his head on the ground on March 27. He died two days later.


April 10: Edwin Kalama, 44, was stabbed to death near Lahaina and Jade streets in Waianae. Kalama's girlfriend, Donna Leilani Souza, 34, was charged with the murder.


April 23: Halawa Correctional Center inmate Antonio Revera, 26, was found dead in his cell. The case is being reviewed.


May 31: Three-month-old Austin Tabag died of a skull fracture with intercranial injury. His father, 30-year-old Eugene Tabag, was indicted for the murder. The father said he accidentally droped the boy on his head in their Nanakuli home.


June 3: Army helicopter pilot John Latchum Jr., 33, was shot while vacationing in Waianae. Bryson Jose, 20, was charged with the murder. Jose was accused of urging a 17-year-old Makaha boy to fire the shot that killed Latchum. The boy was also arrested.


June 30: Samuel Gilbert Jr., 69, was found stabbed in his office at the Waikiki Whaler apartments, apparently killed during a robbery attempt. Gilbert was the president of a family company that owned the seven-story apartment building. No arrests have been made.


July 5: Fortunato Barques III died 61 days after being shot by a police officer at a Pupukea heiau. Barques, 37, was shot at the Pu'u O Makuhu Heiau on May 5 by a patrol officer. The officer shot Barques twice in the back as he walked up a private roadway, failing to heed the officer's warnings to stop. A handgun was recovered on Barques and drugs were found in his car.


Aug. 1: Alton Anderson, 23, a homeless man, was stabbed to death at Neal Blaisdell Park in Pearl City. Pierre Taifai, 18, and two other juveniles were charged with the murder.


Aug. 13: Retired city bus driver Julia Alameida, 62, was shot attempting to break up a neighborhood scuffle on Kaamooloa Road in Waialua. Alameida's neighbor, 16-year-old Lovisa Rauch, was charged with the murder.


Aug. 30: Lisa Cruz, 30, was found stabbed in front of her Kaneaki Street house in Waianae Valley. Her brother, Herbert Cruz, 25, was charged with the murder.


Sept. 14: John Keao, 24, was shot during a neighborhood brawl at a Wahiawa apartment complex. A neighbor was arrested but was released after prosecutors declared the shooting justifiable self-defense.


Nov. 1: Chance Paris, 31, was stabbed during a brawl on California Avenue in Wahiawa. James Russell, 24, was charged with the murder.


Dec. 28: A 39-year-old homeless man, whose name has not been released, was found beaten to death next to an abandoned building near the Honolulu Airport. A 51-year-old homeless man has been arrested in connection with the murder.

By Jaymes K. Song, Star-Bulletin

Police arrest suspect
in death of homeless
man near airport

By Jaymes K. Song


On the loading docks at an abandoned building near Honolulu Airport, a pair of rubber slippers are perfectly placed next to a make-shift bed consisting of a ratty sofa cushion and a couple of sheets.

Old plate-lunch containers crawling with insects and other trash are scattered all over the docks of the former LSG SkyChefs warehouse on Ualena Street. Along with the roar of departing jets, hundreds of flies and the stench of urine fill the air.

On Monday morning, a 39-year-old homeless man was found beaten to death in this area which many people call home.

Another homeless man, 51, was arrested yesterday in connection with the murder.

According to a detective's report, the suspect admitted assaulting the man the same day the body was found.

The beaten man, whose name has not been released pending notification of kin, suffered injuries to the head and body, said homicide Detective Anderson Hee. The man's body was found 8:57 a.m. Monday by patrol officers responding to an anonymous call about an unresponsive man.

According to the medical examiner's office, the cause of death has been listed as "internal abdominal injuries."

After questioning several homeless people in the area, Kalihi patrol officers located the suspect yesterday. He was booked for second-degree murder, police said.

Area neighbors said several homeless people use the abandoned warehouse as a shelter.

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