Friday, July 16, 1999

hailed for work in
bank case

Teamwork and community
cooperation led to the four suspects'
nonviolent arrests

By Rod Ohira
and Debra Barayuga


A tip led to the arrest of fugitive Albert Raymond Batalona, but the discovery of a supermarket discount card was the key break in the Kahala bank robbery case.

"It was outstanding police work," U.S. attorney Steven Alm said yesterday, praising the police and FBI, who rounded up all four suspects in eight days.

"The physical evidence in the car was critical," said Alm, referring to the Waipahu Bigway card recovered from one of the stolen vehicles used in the getaway.

The card led police to Roger Dailey, 33, last Friday. According to affidavits filed in court, Dailey then identified the other suspects.

Yesterday, acting on a "confidential informant's" tip, plainclothes Crime Reduction Unit officers spotted the final suspect in a white pickup truck near Pearlridge Center, a source said.

Police followed the truck to the parking lot of Pecos River Cafe at 99-106 Kamehameha Highway, where Batalona was taken into custody without incident at 6:50 a.m. Thus ended the manhunt for four suspects believed responsible for last week's $100,000-plus takeover bank robbery.

Later yesterday, Magistrate Francis Yamashita ordered the 24-year-old Batalona held without bail on a criminal complaint charging him with the June 7 robbery of the American Savings Bank at 1215 Hunakai St.

Batalona's detention hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Yamashita yesterday also ordered two other suspects -- Jacob Travis Hayme, 22, and Sean Matsunaga, 20 -- held pending further hearings.

The fourth suspect, Dailey, is a "cooperating witness" who is currently in protective custody.

Alm said all four men will be indicted within the next 30 days, possibly with additional charges.

Police believe the suspects may also be responsible for several market robberies dating to last December.

If there is a connection, it could expand federal charges against them to include violations affecting interstate commerce, Alm said.

His office is working closely with Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle on state charges, including attempted first-degree murder for shots fired at a police officer during the getaway, Alm added.

Deputy Police Chief William Clark yesterday confirmed that "over $75,000" of the "over $100,000" stolen from the bank had been recovered.

In fulfilling Chief Lee Donohue's promise last week of "pulling out all the stops," the task force -- made up of CRU, special services and criminal intelligence units, patrol and FBI agents -- worked almost around the clock from Friday, following up leads and tracking information from street sources.

As one police supervisor noted, "You can't put a dollar sign on the work they did."

Maj. Dennis Eng, commander of HPD's Criminal Investigation Division, described the operation as "one of the biggest cases we've had in recent years."

"There was good police work, good teamwork and good cooperation from the community," Eng said.

"Eight days is fantastic for a case like this," Eng said. "Internally, I think everybody feels good about this. All the field elements contributed.

"Morale is way up right now. As an officer, I'm feeling a lot of pride about what was accomplished."

What's especially satisfying for police is that all four suspects, armed with assault firearms during the robbery, were taken into custody without incident.

The task force, headed by Lt. William Kato, worked quickly on witness statements in the hours following the robbery to determine exactly what happened and how many suspects were actually involved.

"They hit the streets, checked sources to see what they could come up with, and followed up on every reasonable lead," Eng said. "Luck played a big part."

CrimeStoppers received over 150 tips, Clark said.

He added that portions of the $45,000 reward will be paid out in various amounts for information that led to the arrest of the suspects.

At federal court yesterday, over a dozen friends showed up to support Batalona.

Attorney Rustam Barbee, appointed by the court to represent Batalona, said his client appeared to be holding up well considering the circumstances.

Preliminary hearings for Hayme and Matsunaga are scheduled for a week from today.

Siosaia Talakai, 21, and Kapena Kukonu, 22, who were with Batalona in the pickup truck, were arrested for hindering prosecution and will likely be charged in state court.

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