WAILUKU - A Kula man testified he was focused on a shotgun-wielding intruder when he was pistol-whipped on the left side of his face by another man during a backyard robbery.
After having an upper tooth knocked out by the force, Guthrie Franco said he hit the pistol-wielding man with a broomstick, which broke in two. "As I was saying something to him, the shotgun goes off," Franco said. "It's a big boom."
During a preliminary hearing Tuesday in Wailuku District Court, Franco pointed out Justin Pahia, 30, of Kula as the man carrying the pistol - which police later determined was an airsoft gun - in the robbery reported at 2:15 p.m. Oct. 1.
Justin Pahia, 30, of Kula listens during a preliminary hearing Tuesday. Judge Kelsey Kawano ruled there was sufficient evidence to charge Pahia with two counts of first-degree robbery and a charge of keeping a firearm in an improper place.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Robbery victim Guthrie Franco of Kula testifies Tuesday during a preliminary hearing in 2nd Circuit Court.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Judge Kelsey Kawano found there was sufficient evidence to support two counts of first-degree robbery and a charge of keeping a firearm in an improper place against Pahia.
He was being held in lieu of $120,000 bail at the Maui Community Correctional Center.
Franco described how first Pahia, then a second man appeared in the backyard on Alae Road as Franco was trying to chase away a pit bull.
Franco said the robbers were after his three marijuana plants, for which he has a state-issued medical marijuana card. "I knew what they wanted," he said. "They kept looking at that."
He said Pahia held some kind of tool in his left hand and had his right hand behind his back when he suddenly appeared in the yard, saying "All this is mine" and "I'm going to take anything I want."
"I said, 'You don't belong here, that's my medicine,' " Franco testified. "And he's holding this gun at me."
Franco said Pahia aimed the gun "up and down my kneecaps, my head," threatening Franco.
"I said, 'It's my plants. It's my medicine,' " Franco said. "He says, 'I get one baby hungry, and I need money.' I said, 'I feel for you.' "
That's when the second man showed up with the shotgun, which he racked, Franco said. "He says, 'Bro, you not going stop us from doing what we want,' " Franco recalled. "He's aiming it at me. He's pointing it at me the whole time."
Franco estimated he was 10 to 12 feet away from both men. "So now I'm looking at two guns, two guys pointing guns at me," he said.
The man with the shotgun told Franco, "I'm going to take you out," he said.
It was then that Franco was hit with the pistol, with the force breaking his tooth and knocking off his glasses, he said.
After the shotgun was fired into the ground, Franco said he blocked a broomstick part thrown at him and began calling for help. The two men continued pointing their guns at Franco, he said, until a neighbor shouted that he had called 911.
The two men looked at each other, then ran, Franco said.
Police said the suspects fled with the pit bull in a vehicle that Pahia had borrowed from a Kahului man.
Police issued an all-points bulletin for Pahia, who was arrested Oct. 7 at his residence on Pueo Drive.
No guns were found on Pahia, who agreed to searches of his home and vehicle, said Detective Michael Callinan.
He said police recovered a shotgun shell, shotgun pellets and plastic wadding from inside the shotgun at the site of the robbery.
Questioned by defense attorney Chris Dunn, Callinan said Franco initially described the man wielding the shotgun as having "sleeves of tattoos" and the man with the pistol as being taller with no tattoos.
But the day after the robbery, Franco picked Pahia's photo out of a lineup, identifying Pahia - who doesn't have tattoos - as the man carrying the shotgun, Callinan said. He said that during a discussion at the courthouse last week, Franco went back to his original statement and said Pahia was the one with the pistol.
Police are trying to locate the other robber, Callinan said.
Pahia's bail was reduced from $250,000 to $120,000 after Dunn said that the two robbery counts reflect the same act while posing "alternative theories" of how the crime was committed.
Dunn said that while Franco "seemed confused and in my opinion potentially unreliable," his testimony was that it wasn't Pahia but the other man who used the shotgun that the firearms charge was based on.
Pahia is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 30 in 2nd Circuit Court.