Judge upholds charges in bank robberies

WAILUKU – With a deputy prosecutor saying bank robberies in Kihei and Pukalani were committed the same way, with a note and firearm displayed both times, a judge ruled Wednesday that there was enough evidence to support charges of robbery and theft against a Pukalani man.

During a preliminary hearing in Wailuku District Court, Kristopher Sharrott, 40, was identified as the robber who passed a note to a teller and displayed what looked like a firearm during the robbery at 1:57 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Bank of Hawaii branch in the Kihei Safeway.

“I don’t know if it was really a gun, but it scared me enough,” said Ginger Dupree, who was working that Sunday at the branch that was three minutes from closing when the robbery occurred.

She testified that the robber had approached her with a deposit slip and a blue note. She said the note began, “I want” and ended with the word “shot” in capital letters.

“He said, ‘I’m serious,’ ” Dupree recalled. “I don’t remember if I asked him out loud or just stared at him. That’s when he opened his jacket to show me something.”

Branch Manager Jacqueline Eason, who also was working, was taking a basket containing cash bundled by denomination to the vault when she was called over by the teller and also saw the note with the word “shot.”

Eason said the robber pointed at her basket and said, “That is fine.”

Eason said she “froze for a moment” before the robber again pointed and again said, “That is fine.”

“He lifted up his jacket, and I saw what looked like the handle of a gun in his shirt pocket,” Eason testified.

She took the basket of money to him. The robber also said he wanted everything in Dupree’s drawer and asked “no hundreds?” before Dupree said that was all the money in her drawer.

The robber left through the main entrance to the store, Eason said.

The money stolen totaled $17,350, including $1,050 from her drawer, Dupree said.

In court, both employees identified Sharrott as the robber.

“You’re sure this is the person who robbed you, robbed the bank?” Deputy Prosecutor Lewis Littlepage asked Dupree.

“Yes,” she replied.

Two tellers at the Pukalani branch of First Hawaiian Bank, which was robbed more than a year earlier on Jan. 24, 2013, said they weren’t sure when asked if they saw the robber in the courtroom Wednesday afternoon.

But both tellers had identified Sharrott as the robber, picking out his photo when they were shown photo lineups of suspects Feb. 26, said police Detective Randy Esperanza of the Kihei Criminal Investigation Division. He said he reviewed photographs from surveillance video of the Pukalani robbery, finding that the robber “looked similar in size and description” to Sharrott.

In the Pukalani robbery, which occurred at about noon at the branch on Makawao Avenue, bank employee Stricia Nanpei said a man walked up to the merchant window where she was working and asked for a withdrawal slip. “He said, ‘This is how I want my money,’ ” Nanpei said.

She said the robber had a note that he showed her.

“At first, I couldn’t really see what the note was saying cause he kept pulling it back,” Nanpei said. “So I said, ‘I’m sorry, I cannot see what you want.’ That’s when he pointed the gun.”

She said the gun was pointed at her after pulling it out of what looked like a folder.

“I pulled out my drawer and started taking the money out of the drawer,” Nanpei said.

When she reached the $5 bills, “he told me no, he didn’t want the fives,” Nanpei said.

“I pressed our button and ran to my supervisor and told her that I have been robbed,” she said.

Esperanza said $2,499.92 was stolen from the Pukalani branch, according to the bank.

The morning after photos from the surveillance video of the Kihei robbery were released to the media, Esperanza said two anonymous tips identified Sharrott as the robber, with callers providing his address and license plate number for his black GMC pickup.

Another police officer handled a call Feb. 24 from Sharrott’s ex-girlfriend in Illinois who also identified Sharrott as the robber after looking at photos posted online, Esperanza said. The ex-girlfriend said she went to look for the photos after receiving a call from Sharrott’s ex-wife saying Sharrott had robbed a bank.

Detective Myrna Sabas-Ryder of the Kihei Criminal Investigation Division said she received a call Feb. 27 from Sharrott’s ex-wife, who now lives in California.

The ex-wife said she had received a message from a friend on Oahu telling her to look up a news article about the Kihei robbery. “When she did, the first thing that came out of her mouth was ‘Holy crap, that looks like Kristopher,’ ” Sabas-Ryder said.

She said Sharrott’s ex-wife reported calling Sharrott, who said the photo wasn’t him.

“Did she feel it was him?” Littlepage asked.

“Yes,” Sabas-Ryder said.

Littlepage said the robberies were carried out “exactly the same,” with a note and firearm displayed in each.

Deputy Public Defender Gene Evans argued that identification of Sharrott was questionable in the Pukalani robbery, based on the testimony of the tellers. Evans also said there wasn’t enough evidence to support one of the stolen-vehicle charges against Sharrott.

Judge Blaine Kobayashi said the civilian witnesses’ testimony about Sharrott’s identification in the Pukalani robbery “was shaky at best,” but he found there was sufficient probable cause to support the first-degree robbery and second-degree theft charges in that case based on the witnesses’ identification of Sharrott through a photographic lineup that the detective testified to.

Kobayashi also found there was sufficient probable cause to support the first-degree robbery and second-degree theft charges in the Kihei robbery.

But the judge said there wasn’t enough evidence presented for the two stolen-vehicle charges against Sharrott.

Police learned that one car, a 2013 Dodge Avenger, had been stolen from Alamo Rent A Car after the car was found at his residence when he was arrested the afternoon of Feb. 27, said Wailuku patrol officer Brent Takushi. He said the keys to the vehicle were found in Sharrott’s front pocket.

Sharrott’s tenant at his residence on Palalani Street and a neighbor’s relative testified they had seen Sharrott driving around a 2013 silver Audi sedan that was reported stolen Feb. 14 from Cycle City Maui in Kahului.

Wailuku patrol Sgt. Nick Krau said officers were looking to arrest Sharrott on a warrant Feb. 25 when Krau saw the Audi parked on Liholani Street about 200 yards from Sharrott’s residence.

Krau said the license plates on the car belonged to a Mini Cooper, and he could tell the $60,000 vehicle had been spray-painted black.

“It was very suspicious,” Krau said.

Because the judge didn’t find there was enough evidence presented for the two stolen-vehicle charges, Sharrott’s bail was reduced to $160,000.

He is scheduled to be arraigned March 20 in 2nd Circuit Court.

Sharrott appeared in court Wednesday with shackles around his wrists and ankles and wearing black, with Evans saying Sharrott was on suicide watch, “unjustified, he feels,” at the Maui Community Correctional Center.

Questioned by the judge at the start of the preliminary hearing, Sharrott said, “I have never been suicidal.”

“The reason why they put me in this outfit here, they classify homicidal and suicidal in the same (category),” he said. “When I was 15, my friend was killed. Me and my friends thought we would go out and find the person and kill him ourselves. I answered it honestly. Unfortunately, it put me in this outfit.

“It’s demeaning, and I can’t really focus on my case like this.”

Sharrott also is charged with second-degree theft in a Wal-Mart shoplifting case last year. At the request of Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Temas, 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill increased Sharrott’s bail in that case from $5,000 to $50,000 when Sharrott appeared Wednesday morning for a bail hearing.

Cahill said the increase would be temporary until a further bail hearing Friday.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.