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Thursday, September 21, 2000

Prison security
frees hostage

A nurse is held at knifepoint nearly
30 minutes at the Halawa prison

By Rod Ohira

After 26 minutes, negotiations with an inmate holding a knife to the neck of a woman nurse at Halawa High/Medium Security Facility were at a standstill.

"I was there and sensed a real bad ending," Halawa Warden Nolan Espinda said about yesterday's hostage situation involving inmate Alomalietoa Sua, which was eventually resolved without injury.

At 10:10 a.m., on the 27th minute, the prison's Emergency Response Team seized an opportunity created by its chief negotiator -- Capt. John Martinez -- to break into the room and capture Sua.

Martinez, who had been talking to Sua through the glass door and window of the room, offered a suggestion to the inmate so they hear each other better, said Espinda.

"Captain suggested they talk to each other on the phone," the warden said.

Sua then stepped to the back of the room, took the knife from his mouth and placed it down on top of a cabinet before reaching for the telephone, Espinda said.

The split-second mental lapse gave the Response Team enough time to make its move.

"The captain's performance was damn-near heroic," the warden said.

Sua, 26, is part of a Waipahu family whose brothers have violent histories that include murder, attempted murder, assault and armed robbery.

In 1996, seven Sua brothers -- Jerome, Apolosio, Etuale Jr., Alomalietoa, John, Edward and Robert -- were all in state correctional facilities at the same time.

Alomalietoa Sua has been a Halawa medium-custody inmate since June 27, 1996, when his parole was revoked, said Espinda. Sua is serving time for first- and second-degree robbery convictions and would have been eligible for a parole hearing on Aug. 2, 2007.

In February 1996, a jury acquitted Alomalietoa Sua of killing 21-year-old Hans Mori, who died from head injuries suffered during an August 1993 brawl on Pupupuhi Street in Waipahu.

Espinda said Sua went to the medical unit yesterday complaining of elbow pain.

"He was treated by the female nurse but refused to leave the room," the warden said. "He then produced a shank and barricaded the door."

Sua's "shank" was made of a 3-inch-long Xacto razor blade tied to two toothbrush handles.

The staff responded to the incident at 9:43 a.m.

The nurse, whom Espinda declined to identify, was blindfolded and on her knees, facing a wall.

"He appeared agitated," Espinda said of Sua. "He was alternately placing the knife in his mouth and to her throat."

The warden said Sua made no demands. "He said was not leaving and gestured (as if shooting a rifle) with his hands that we would have to take him out with a gun," Espinda said.

Sua has been placed in the prison's "disciplinary segregation unit," the warden said. Police will seek to charge Sua with kidnapping and first-degree terroristic threatening for the incident.

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