MAKAWAO - A man sustained major facial injuries after a fight broke out among about 20 people outside Casanova Italian Restaurant and Deli in Makawao early Sunday morning, police said.
The man was taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center. No arrests had been made as of Monday, police said.
The incident occurred around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, police said. It has was upgraded from a misdemeanor assault case to a second-degree felony assault investigation because of the injuries suffered by the man.
Customer Jill Pridemore, who was with friends outside the restaurant during the incident, said the injured man is a friend in his mid-30s.
She said he suffered substantial injuries, including a shattered orbital, and was awaiting surgery Monday at Maui Memorial Medical Center.
Around six people were injured in her group of about 15 friends, with one needing to have stitches at the hospital, she said.
One person was knocked out, while another suffered some bruises but did not seek medical treatment.
Pridemore said the friends were outside the restaurant after a fundraiser for the nonprofit Jungle to Jungle Project, aimed at engaging Maui students in interactive, experience-based learning about exotic ecosystems around the world, while using new communications technology in the process.
"It was terrible. It's angry kids," Pridemore said. She said it was ironic that the attackers were youths ranging from about 17 to 21 years old and her group had just held a fundraiser for a youth program.
Pridemore said two young couples passed by the group first, with one person asking for a cigarette. One of Pridemore's friends gave a young male a cigarette. The young male talked to the group and then made an insulting remark about the females in the group, when a verbal argument started.
Then the young male returned with about seven others, with some wearing teeth guards, she said.
"It seemed pretty obvious they were looking for a fight," Pridemore added.
Members of the group looked like they were trained to fight using sophisticated stances, she said, adding that it's sad that the sport of mixed martial arts is glamorized, and young people emulate the aggressive behavior without thinking about the consequences.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.