Alleged shoplifter facing robbery charge

Man arrested for attempting to leave Macy’s wearing 4 pairs of shorts under his jeans

WAILUKU — A robbery charge was upheld against a man who struggled with a Macy’s employee trying to stop the shoplifter from leaving without paying for four pairs of shorts, according to testimony Wednesday.

Preston Latu, 28, of Makawao was arrested at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center store Saturday night.

During a preliminary hearing Wednesday in Wailuku District Court, Macy’s asset protection detective Lloyd Carter testified that Latu was wearing the four pairs of shorts under his jeans as he went to leave the men’s store.

Because the store was already closed, Carter opened the door for Latu and stepped outside. “He was starting to shake my hand,” Carter said. “Once he stepped out, I confronted him. That’s when everything went haywire.”

Carter said he needed to talk to Latu about the shorts he was wearing. “Right after that, he became confrontational,” Carter said.

He pushed Latu back into the store, where the two ended up on the ground.

An anti-theft sensor machine was knocked down and broken as Latu struggled with Carter, he said.

Carter said he had Latu pinned facedown on the ground when Latu tried to bite Carter’s hand. Carter said he was hit three or four times by Latu, who was “kicking, swinging, doing anything he could to get up.”

“It was nonstop moving, yelling, screaming,” Carter said, until police officers arrived and arrested Latu at about 9:10 p.m.

Fellow Macy’s asset protection detective Candice Levy described Latu as “forcefully resisting” while scuffling with Carter. Levy testified she saw Latu punch Carter in his body at least once.

Latu had drawn the store employees’ attention as he moved items around and walked to different areas in the store, Levy said.

She said Latu had crutches, which he left next to a store fixture while limping at times.

After going upstairs to get a duffel bag from the luggage section, he went back downstairs and selected a belt and underwear, which he covered with a shirt and placed at the fragrance counter, Levy said. “His behavior was a little suspicious,” she said.

Then, she said, Latu went to the Quiksilver area and took nine pairs of shorts into the dressing room, leaving with only five pairs. He pretended he was going to purchase the merchandise before moving to leave the store, Levy said.

Once Carter confronted Latu when he stepped outside the store, “he went from zero to 60 immediately,” Deputy Prosecutor Joanne Hicks said.

Judge Blaine Kobayashi found there was sufficient evidence to support the second-degree robbery charge against Latu and kept his bail at $10,000.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 21 in 2nd Circuit Court.

The arrest at Macy’s occurred four days after Latu was released from jail on supervision in an unrelated theft and stolen vehicle case. He has pleaded not guilty to unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle and third-degree theft for incidents in Lahaina on Oct. 21.

During Latu’s bail hearing Oct. 31 in 2nd Circuit Court, Deputy Prosecutor Kenton Werk asked that bail remain at $10,000 for Latu in the stolen-vehicle case, saying the defendant had no verified employment or residence. Latu struggled with police officers and appeared to be intoxicated when he was arrested, Werk said. He said Latu is a convicted felon who was recently released from prison.

In granting supervised release for Latu, Judge Peter Cahill said the defendant “may not have a stable residence, but that’s because he’s been a guest of the State of Hawaii for an extended period of time.”

Latu was ordered to report for random drug and alcohol testing as a condition of his release.

Latu thanked the judge for granting his request for supervised release.

“Despite what the prosecutor said, I get one home for go to,” Latu said. “Thank you. First time in my life this happened. This is one minor setback for one major comeback.”

In 2007, when Latu was 17, he was sentenced to a 10-year prison term for abducting a teenager and keeping him in the trunk of his car. Latu was convicted of second-degree robbery, first-degree unlawful imprisonment, unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle and first-degree terroristic threatening in that case.

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

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