Victim: Man attacked while he tried to take photo of him

Probable cause found on robbery, other charges

WAILUKU — A Haiku resident testified he was trying to take a photo of a man who was screaming and threatening him when the suspect reached into the resident’s vehicle, took his cellphone and punched him twice.

Then the suspect ran up to the man’s wife, hit her in the forehead with the phone and punched her, she testified.

At a preliminary hearing Thursday in Wailuku District Court, the couple identified the suspect as Christian Fiedler, 46, who was arrested Sunday.

Police were called to Hoomalolo Place in Haiku at about 5 p.m. Dec. 22.

Resident John Byrne said he had gone to check on a neighbor’s house when he was attacked in his car.

He said Fiedler, who used to live on the street, “just appeared in my car window in a flash.”

Byrne said he thought the attack stemmed from when he and two other neighbors called animal control about Fiedler’s “vicious dog.”

Fiedler was “screaming profanities, threatening me, trying to pull me out of the car,” Byrne said.

He said he held the car door shut and decided to use his cellphone to take a picture “in case I end up dead.”

“It was not a smart thing to do,” Byrne said. “He grabbed my phone. He was still trying to get the car door open and yelling at me.”

After Byrne kept asking Fiedler to give back the phone, he “threw it back in my car,” Byrne said.

He said he again tried to take a photo of Fiedler, who grabbed the phone a second time.

“He punched me twice, once in the jaw and once in the chest,” Byrne said.

He said his wife had heard the commotion, walked out to their backyard and started using her cellphone to film what was happening.

When Fiedler realized what she was doing, “he took off toward her, running up the hill,” Byrne said.

Nancy Byrne testified that she saw Fiedler screaming into the driver’s-side window and grabbing the racks of her husband’s 2004 Cadillac sport utility vehicle. She said she saw her husband reach over to grab his cellphone, then saw Fiedler “reach in and punch my husband as he was attempting to grab my husband’s cellphone.”

“I screamed at him, ‘Whoa, I’m videotaping this whole thing right now,’ ” Nancy Byrne said. “He pivoted, he pointed at me and he started screaming at me.”

She said her husband told her to call 911, and she was trying to stop the video to make the call.

“Then I realized he was coming up the hill toward me,” she said.

She said she took a photo when Fiedler was about 2 feet away. He said, “Oh, you want this phone? You want this phone?” Nancy Byrne said.

“He took my husband’s favorite iPhone and slammed it in my forehead,” Byrne said. With his other hand, Fiedler punched her in the jaw, she said.

Police officer Mousa Kawas, who responded to the scene, said Fiedler was in his vehicle when he conducted a traffic stop and asked Fiedler if he wanted to speak about what had just occurred. Fiedler didn’t provide information and rolled up his window, leaving an opening of 1 to 2 inches at the top, and locked his vehicle doors, Kawas said.

After telling Fiedler that he was under arrest, Kawas testified he spent several minutes talking to Fiedler to try to persuade him to step out of the vehicle.

He didn’t get out, Kawas said. He said he and another officer unsuccessfully tried to remove Fiedler from the vehicle, puncturing the driver’s-side window with the back of a knife and deploying a Taser.

Kawas said Fiedler was pushing the officers away and flailing his legs and arms while refusing to comply with the officers’ orders.

“That’s when he started his vehicle and left the scene,” Kawas said.

Deputy Public Defender Brad Sova argued that there wasn’t enough evidence to support a robbery charge against Fiedler, noting that John Byrne testified that he was punched after Fiedler had taken the phone.

“So this act of punching, this physical force, was not used to commit the theft,” Sova said.

Deputy Prosecutor Lewis Littlepage noted that Fiedler left with the phone after hitting Byrne, supporting the robbery charge.

“That is using the force to effectuate his escape with the item,” Littlepage said.

Judge Blaine Kobayashi found there was sufficient evidence to support a finding of probable cause for the charges of second-degree robbery, first-degree escape and first-degree unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle.

Fiedler also is charged with two counts of third-degree assault, resisting arrest and fourth-degree theft.

Fiedler was being held in lieu of $67,000 bail at the Maui Community Correctional Center.

He is scheduled to be arraigned March 13 in 2nd Circuit Court.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at