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Tuesday, July 4, 2000

Gunman describes
shooting woman in face

By Suzanne Tswei


A gunman who is accused of shooting a woman in the face during a botched robbery testified yesterday that he did not shoot her intentionally. Instead, Tomas Quirantes said the gun went off accidentally as he struggled with the woman's husband.

During his Circuit Court jury trial yesterday, Quirantes, 21, admitted that he and three other men planned to rob California Market on Jan. 8 last year. But he said he did not mean to shot Pok Cha Fithian, wife of the owner, Paul.

Pok Cha Fithian was shot in the right cheek, and the bullet went down her neck and existed through her shoulder, Deputy Prosecutor Martin Romualdez said.

Her husband said outside the courtroom that his wife "is in pain every day" from the gunshot wounds and must rest every four or five hours because of the pain.

Quirantes said he had never used a gun before the holdup and Farrington Governor Santos, an accomplice, showed him how to use it right before the holdup. Santos was trying to empty the gun of bullets before the robbery, but Quirantes asked him to leave some bullets for protection, Quirantes said.

Santos committed suicide about a month after his arrest while being held at Oahu Community Correctional Center.

Quirantes threatened Paul Fithian with the gun after Fithian refused his demand for money and attacked Santos, Quirantes said.

Quirantes and Fithian struggled as Santos fled.

While the two men grappled, Quirantes kept his gun pointed downward because "I no like nobody get shot. I no like myself get shot," he said.

But Pok Cha Fithian was shot after she arrived at the store to deliver dinner to her husband. Quirantes said. The gun went off twice as he struggled with her husband, and a bullet struck her face, he said.

After Fithian was shot, Quirantes said he tried to escape by firing the gun at Paul Fithian's shoulder but the gun did not go off.

Paul Fithian testified that Quirantes pointed the gun at his chest at point-blank range and tried to fire twice.

The two men continued to struggle and the gun fell to the floor. Pok Cha Fithian found the gun and hit him on the head before running out of the store for help, Quirantes said.

Quirantes said he took the magazine out of the gun and removed any leftover bullets to ensure that no one else would be hurt while the two men struggled.

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