WAILUKU - An 18-year-old Lahaina man is being held on a robbery charge for allegedly taking a tourist's cellphone after bumping into her and grabbing her purse Saturday night as she walked on the sidewalk along Front Street.
Jose Ismael Esparza was chased by the tourist's husband and bystanders who detained the suspect, said Detective Darrell Ramos of the Lahaina Criminal Investigation Division.
After the detective's testimony at a preliminary hearing Wednesday afternoon, District Judge Adrianne Heely ruled there was probable cause to support the second-degree robbery charge against Esparza. He was ordered to stay away from Front Street and is being held at the Maui Community Correctional Center in lieu of $20,000 bail.
Because the victim and her husband flew back to their home in Clovis, Calif., on Monday, Ramos described their accounts of what happened shortly before 9 that night.
He said the couple were walking on Front Street near a jewelry store when she was bumped, making shoulder-to-shoulder contact with a man walking in the opposite direction. "It caused her to be unstable," Ramos said. "She felt her purse being tugged away from her right hip."
He said the woman had just put her iPhone into a side pocket of her purse when she was bumped and realized the suspect was holding onto the purse.
When she pulled back on the purse strap, the woman saw the suspect fleeing with her phone in his hand, Ramos said.
He said the woman's husband and others chased Esparza, who ran 60 to 70 yards before being caught. "He maintained constant vision of the defendant as the defendant was running away," Ramos said.
The phone was recovered on the sidewalk and returned to the woman, Ramos said.
The detective said he later interviewed Esparza, who said he understood English and acknowledged walking along Front Street and seeing the woman with the purse. "He indicated that all he wanted was the iPhone," Ramos said. "He indicated he did take the iPhone."
Deputy Prosecutor Kim Whitworth said there is an immigration detainer for Esparza.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.