Arrests in armed robbery attempt

WAILUKU – Three Wailuku men were arrested Wednesday morning following an armed robbery attempt at the Minit Stop on the corner of Main and Central streets in Wailuku.

Although no one was injured and nothing was stolen, employees were left “visibly shaken” from a “needless crime,” General Manager Jon Miyabuchi said.

“Cashiers have very little money in the till – less than $100 at any moment – so it doesn’t make much sense for somebody to do something like that,” he said.

The robbery unfolded at about 6:50 a.m. when three men drove into the parking lot, with two of them entering the store and one staying in the car, Miyabuchi said. He said both robbers in the store demanded money from the cash registers, with one brandishing a weapon and threatening the workers.

Police said the two men, ages 24 and 25, wore hooded sweat shirts and masks in the store. One carried what appeared to be a semi-automatic pistol and the other had what looked like a pipe. The men began threatening customers in the store, police said, before suddenly bolting and running as they heard the sounds of police sirens approaching.

Miyabuchi said police were notified by a silent alarm that one of the employees pressed during the robbery.

“The employees did everything they were trained to do and no one panicked,” he said. “They did a wonderful job in what was a very stressful situation.”

Police said two suspects ran from the store toward Waiale Drive on Nani Street and were chased by officers, who caught the men fronting the Nani Street Apartments. Police reported recovering a pellet gun that resembled a semi-automatic pistol and the other weapon used in the robbery, said Lt. Jayson Rego of the Criminal Investigation Division.

The third suspect, 23, who had been acting as a lookout and getaway driver in the robbery, fled in a gray Nissan pickup truck that headed mauka on Main Street, police said. Rego said Wailuku patrol officers identified the suspect and were looking him, obtaining his cellphone number in the process.

An officer had called the suspect and was talking to him to tell him to turn himself in when the 2007 pickup truck he was driving was stopped on Honoapiilani Highway at Maalaea near Carl’s Jr. restaurant by Kihei traffic enforcement detail officers, Rego said.

He said the Kihei officers, doing speed enforcement as part of the weeklong Operation SPEED, had stopped the truck that was traveling 62 mph and had been seen speeding and cutting in and out of traffic while heading in the Lahaina direction.

The officers who stopped the truck learned the driver was being sought in the robbery investigation when he handed his phone over to a Kihei officer, who spoke to the officer investigating the robbery, Rego said.

The store, which opened at 5 a.m., had three employees working behind the counter and a few more in the back area, Miyabuchi said. He said he was notified of the crime by a district manager and arrived with him about 15 to 20 minutes after the men had already fled.

Police were parked outside the store, blocking the parking lot, and they obtained footage from the store’s video surveillance cameras, Miyabuchi said. The employees held at gunpoint were excused from work after being interviewed by police.

With nine locations on Maui and six on the Big Island, each store is outfitted with “state-of-the-art security systems,” including a silent alarm and surveillance cameras, Miyabuchi said. He said the company’s Lahaina store, which opens Nov. 1, will have the same systems.

“We’ve had vandalism in the past, but nothing this extreme,” he said. “About two years ago we upgraded our security systems here and it is now a standard security package in all stores.”

Miyabuchi commended police for their timely response and handling of the suspects.

“They quickly rounded up everyone and took care of business,” he said.

All three suspects were being held at the Wailuku police cellblock Wednesday as detectives continued the robbery investigation. As of late Wednesday afternoon, the suspects hadn’t been charged, Rego said.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at