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StarBulletin.com

Suspect freed before killing


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POSTED: Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Authorities lodged murder charges against a 21-year-old man who had been released from jail three hours before the Chinatown slaying of 35-year-old Joseph Maululu Peneueta.

Iosefa Meafua Pasene was charged yesterday with second-degree murder, use of a firearm in commission of a felony and first-degree terroristic threatening. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail and is scheduled to appear in court today.

Witnesses say Pasene was armed with an assault-type rifle when he and another man allegedly shot Peneueta. A second gunman has yet to be arrested.

Peneueta's friends, who mourned his death at a makeshift memorial on the street corner where he was slain, say he knew his attackers from the streets, where his uncle concludes he must have been involved in dealing drugs in what he said is “;known as a drug-infested area.”;

“;My blood is on that street now,”; said Peneueta's uncle, Leauma Laulu, who suspects his nephew was killed in a turf war to establish dominance.

He said he has a strong suspicion the shooting by men who, he was told, have San Francisco connections was not necessarily gang-related, but “;to gain some kind of turf they have to prove they're man enough to gain control of a section of the block.”;

Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents and police officers tracked down and arrested Pasene Monday on Lipoa Place in Aiea on a federal arrest warrant, and Pasene was later turned over to police and arrested on suspicion of murder.

The Honolulu Medical Examiner said Peneueta bled to death from multiple internal injuries from shotgun and bullet wounds.

Police said the shooting happened at 4:15 a.m. Saturday near the intersection of River and North Pauahi streets near Aala Park.

A man who was sleeping on the street corner said he awoke when he heard gunshots, and saw Peneueta “;ducking bullets.”;

“;They shot him down like a dog, like an animal,”; said the man, who declined to give his name for fear of retaliation, pointing to the bullet holes in the street. “;They just unloaded their guns on him.

“;There were lots of people around. I don't know how they didn't get hurt.”;

Police recovered 14 shell casings, .223-caliber, and four shotgun shell casings from the scene. Police said multiple witnesses saw two gunmen fire several rounds at Peneueta.

Just 14 hours earlier, police arrested Pasene, Antonias Toloai, 32 and Cedro Muna, 22, in Aala Park on drug possession charges. None gave police a local address, but Pasene has a state ID.

Police released Muna at 11:45 p.m. Friday after he posted $20,000 bail for second-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, and Muna is scheduled to appear in District Court this morning.

Police released Pasene and Toloai at 1:15 a.m. Saturday after they each posted $11,000 bail for third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug. Pasene also was charged with marijuana possession.

Prosecutors charged Pasene and Toloai yesterday, and the two are scheduled to appear in Circuit Court tomorrow.

Police said Peneueta got into an argument with two men in a light-colored sedan early Saturday morning. The men, one carrying a a shotgun, the other armed with an assault-type rifle, stepped out of their car in the middle of the roadway and confronted Peneueta. As Peneueta was trying to flee, the men shot him in the back multiple times, police said.

Police said a third man was involved in the shooting.

A witness said the shooters were part of a group that call themselves the “;Friscos.”; HPD spokesman Maj. Frank Fujii would not say whether Muna and Toloai are suspects in the shooting.

Laulu said, “;My hope is not only to catch these guys, but that nobody else dies like this.”;

He said the family has been touched by the outpouring of love shown by friends and people in the area who dropped off leis, flowers and notes, including homeless who say Peneueta would often buy them food.