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Roadblock continues despite 7 arrests in Laie land dispute


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POSTED: Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Laie family blocked access to a private dirt road mauka of Kamehameha Highway for the second time in three days yesterday despite being arrested the first time.

The Wasson family says it owns part of the road and 33 acres of land it leads to.

Hawaii Reserves Inc. manages the land for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which also claims ownership. HRI says the Wassons have never shown proof of their claim.

Henry and Dawn Wasson said they were protecting their rights by blocking the road from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Jace McQuivey, a Hawaii Reserves vice president, said the company received complaints and that some of its tenants, including Cackle Fresh Egg Farm, and other landowners were unable to leave or enter.

McQuivey said the blocking of the road was causing a public safety and health problem for some tenants, including one who needed to go to the store to get medication.

McQuivey said he is unfamiliar with the Wassons' claim but felt that the family's approach was unusual.

“;Blocking people's access is, I don't think, the way to resolve these things,”; he said.

Police were called.

Lt. David Eber said Hawaii Reserves Inc. showed documents that it owned the road, and police repeatedly asked five members of the Wasson family and two friends to remove themselves from the roadway.

Eber said the seven refused, and some also interfered with attempts by Hawaii Reserves Inc. to remove a chain across the road.

Officers arrested all seven and used pepper spray during the arrest.

The seven face charges, including the petty misdemeanor of criminal tampering for blocking the road with a chain, police said.

They are scheduled to appear in District Court in Kaneohe at 8 a.m. Jan. 28.

Those charged included Dawn Wasson, 65; Henry Wasson, 75; Epe Ili, 56; Harry Wasson, 45; Ron and Pam Harris, both 58; and Hana Perez-Wasson, 15.

Attorney Anthony Locricchio, who represents the Wassons, said according to registered land documents, the church sold the land to the Wassons' ancestors but was continuing to rent the land to its tenants.

Locricchio said the Wassons planned to block the road for 24 hours to clarify their ownership of the land and road.

Locricchio said the burden lies with the church to prove it owns the land and that the church should have sought a trespass order in civil court against the Wassons.

He said the police violated the Wassons' civil rights by depriving the Wassons of the use of their land and incorrectly arrested them.

“;We believe they're totally false charges,”; Locricchio said.

Dawn Wasson said she did not think the police should have used the pepper spray on mainly elderly people, including her husband, who is dying of cancer.

“;We were telling them ... 'You don't have to do that,'”; she said.

The Wassons blocked the road again at 6 a.m. yesterday and planned to remove the roadblock at 6 a.m. today.