Tuesday, January 11, 2000

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
On the witness stand, Sherniel Taganas demonstrates the drawn
gun he said he saw during a confrontation between the Ababa
cousins and a group at Wolter Lane in Kapalama. A New Year's
shooting killed one man and critically wounded another.

New Year’s slaying
witnesses say Ababa
cousins had guns

Family and friends were shut out
of the hearing that set a court date for
two accused in the New Year's murder

By Ian Lind


A witness to a fatal New Year's Eve shooting in Kapalama has testified that a group of men went to the corner of King Street and Wolter Lane about 10 p.m. with one thing in mind:

"To fight those guys from that lane," Sherniel Taganas told District Judge George Y. Kimura yesterday.

Taganas said his group had been "called out," or challenged to fight, while driving through the intersection earlier in the evening, and returned for a confrontation after picking up several others.

Two of those who joined the group, cousins Rodrigo and Harvey Ababa, now face charges of second-degree murder, first- and second-degree attempted murder, and a firearms violation stemming from the confrontation that left one man dead and a second critically wounded.

The two appeared in District Court for a preliminary hearing before Judge George Y. Kimura.

Following two hours of testimony, Kimura ruled there was probable cause to believe the defendants committed the crimes, and sent the cases to Circuit Court for trial. Kimura set an arraignment date of Jan. 24 in Circuit Court.

Rodrigo Ababa is being held in protective custody for unknown reasons, according to deputy public defender Todd Eddins.

A group of family and friends were excluded from the courtroom after objections were raised by court-appointed defense attorney Myles S. Breiner, representing Rodrigo Ababa, and Eddins, who appeared on behalf of Harvey Ababa. The attorneys said people familiar with either the defendants or victims could be called as witnesses in later proceedings, and their testimony might be tainted if allowed to remain in the courtroom.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Defendant Harvey Ababa stood with his attorney, Todd Eddins,
and Rodrigo Ababa with attorney Myles Breiner, at the preliminary
hearing. Prosecuting attorney Vince Kanemoto, right, sought
murder and attempted murder charges.

Taganas and Timothy Pebenito, a friend of the victims, said they heard shots and saw both defendants holding guns.

Taganas said he heard shots after Rodrigo Ababa entered Wolter Lane, then saw him emerge from the lane holding a gun in his right hand, which was extended directly in front of him at about chest level.

Several seconds later, Taganas said Harvey Ababa fired several shots toward the ground.

Taganas said he left the scene after hearing that someone had been shot.

Pebenito said his group of about eight friends had been drinking beer since about 5 p.m. in a garage behind the stereo shop on the corner.

They were "drinking, popping firecrackers, and like that," Pebenito testified. "Just cruising and drinking."

Then, according to Pebenito, "they started shooting, that guy there, and this guy right here," pointing at the defendants.

Pebenito said he pushed his brother to the ground when the shooting started, while other men in his group held up garbage cans and moved forward toward the gunmen, trying to push them back out of the lane.

Two men were hit by gunfire. Richard Tambua, who Pebenito described as his best friend, was killed by a bullet through his chest, and Donald Kamaka, Pebenito's uncle, was critically wounded by a bullet in the stomach.

Under questioning by Breiner, Pebenito said he did not know for sure who shot each victim.

"I seen them get shot, but I never know who fired the gun. They was the ones holding the guns, and they was the ones moving back (up the lane)," Pebenito said.

The proceedings were interrupted several times when Pebenito cursed Breiner and the defendants. Breiner also objected when Pebenito glared at the defendants from the witness stand.

"It's designed to challenge," Breiner said.

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