Hilo man allegedly steals second bus this month
A 21-year-old Hilo man accused of stealing a Hele-On bus earlier this month has done it again, police said.
Kawelo Nakamura was arrested at about 6:45 a.m. Monday at the county Parks and Recreation department’s Hoolulu Complex, where the bus was found, damaged. He was booked on suspicion of first-degree theft, reckless driving, driving without a commercial driver’s license, and two counts of leaving the scene of an accident, according to police Lt. Miles Chong of the Hilo Criminal Investigation Section.
Investigation was ongoing and Nakamura hadn’t been charged as of press time Monday.
“The damage estimate is still pending,” Chong said.
The county is self-insured, so damages will be absorbed by taxpayers.
Police and crime lab evidence technicians surveyed damage to the bus and were processing it for evidence Monday morning in the parking lot of the county’s Sparky Kawamoto Aquatic Complex in the Hoolulu facility.
County employees reported to police at 1:36 a.m. Monday morning that the lock on the gate to the Mass Transit Agency baseyard on East Kawailani Street was cut, and the gates were found open. The buses can be started by button once someone is aboard.
“It looks like they forced their way through the gate (of the baseyard) with the bus, and they damaged two other buses in the process,” Curt Sharp, a transit consultant hired by Mayor Harry Kim, said. “… The gate was closed, and it was locked, and apparently he forced his way through it.
“… I think we learned the bus was missing when (somebody) saw it hele on-ing down the Hamakua Coast.”
Sharp said two of the three damaged buses were part of the county’s active service fleet, and the agency will have to do without them, at least for now.
“One bus that I looked at earlier this morning, the front end was pretty well (damaged). It looked like he backed into it,” he said.
Chong said the bus also struck an unattended parked car on Pookela Street in the Kanoelehua Industrial Area.
No injuries were reported as a result of the unauthorized bus tour.
Sharp said the agency will be looking at stepped-up security measures.
“I think we need security personnel round the clock,” he said.
Police said they received reports that the 42-passenger bus was seen heading in the Hamakua direction over the Wailuku Bridge on Highway 19 and later on Queen Kaahumanu Highway near the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows in South Kohala.
“We haven’t confirmed that,” Chong said about the reported Mauna Lani bus sighting.
Officers briefly pursued the bus at about 6:24 a.m. after it was seen returning to Hilo on Bayfront Highway, but the pursuit was discontinued in the interest of public safety, police said.
Nakamura also is accused of stealing another bus on Aug. 5 from the Mass Transit baseyard and sideswiping a car on Railroad Avenue near Home Depot. He was later pulled over by police and taken into custody without incident on Highway 130 near Pahoa.
In that case, he’s charged with first-degree theft, driving a stolen vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident, criminal property damage, and driving the bus without a commercial driver’s license.
Nakamura was in custody in lieu of $13,000 bail when he appeared in court Aug. 8. During that hearing, Hilo District Judge Diana Van De Car granted Nakamura supervised release, which freed him without bail, over the objection of Deputy Prosecutor Glenn Shiigi, who called Nakamura “a severe safety risk to the public” and noted that Nakamura self-reported drug abuse and mental health issues.
Since then, a Hilo grand jury indicted Nakamura on those charges, and a bench warrant was issued for his rearrest.
County Prosecutor Mitch Roth said Monday he doesn’t think Nakamura will be granted supervised release again and hopes the outstanding warrant for the original charges will be served soon.
Police document damage to a stolen county Hele-On bus Monday in the parking lot of the Sparky Kawamoto Aquatic Complex in Hilo.