Hilo man al­legedly steals sec­ond bus this month

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By JOHN BUR­NETT

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.

JOHN BUR­NETT/Tri­bune-Her­ald

Po­lice doc­u­ment dam­age to a stolen county Hele-On bus Mon­day in the park­ing lot of the Sparky Kawamoto Aquatic Com­plex in Hilo.


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