WAILUKU - Jerry Baoit was in a second-floor men's bathroom at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center when he felt a punch on the back of his neck from a stranger.
"I ask him why, but he keep on punching me," Baoit testified Wednesday during a preliminary hearing in Wailuku District Court. "I cannot back off because I'm in the corner. I try to defend myself, but he grabbed me in the back and drag me back."
Baoit identified his assailant as Thomas Abraham, who is charged with second-degree attempted murder, second-degree assault and third-degree assault in what police described as a random and unprovoked attack at about 4:30 p.m. Friday in the restroom near the food court at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center.
Defendant Thomas Abraham, 38, listens Wednesday afternoon in Wailuku District Court as his alleged victim describes how Abraham attacked him Friday afternoon in a Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center bathroom.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Judge Adrianne Heely ruled there was sufficient evidence to support the charges against Abraham.
The 38-year-old homeless man is being held at the Maui Community Correctional Center in lieu of $511,000 bail.
Baoit said Abraham had gone into the restroom first and the two were the only ones there when he was first punched about four times in the left back side of his neck while standing at a urinal.
Then Abraham wrapped his right hand around Baoit's neck in a chokehold, with Baoit having trouble breathing, he said. He said he struggled to move until he and Abraham fell to the ground.
Abraham was on top of Baoit, lying on Baoit's stomach and using a hand to cover Baoit's mouth and nose, "it's hard for me to breathe," Baoit said.
"That's why I doing my best to take off the hand," he said.
Baoit said he moved his head and tried to remove Abraham's hands as Abraham poked and dug into Baoit's eyes as if trying to gouge his eyes.
Baoit said he also felt pain as Abraham poked his neck but because they were so close, Baoit couldn't see exactly what Abraham was doing. "The body is so close to me already and he's on top of me," Baoit said. "I almost feel dizzy already."
Abraham remained on top of Baoit and was choking him with both hands, Baoit said, when someone entered the bathroom and Baoit asked for help. The man left the bathroom and called for mall security.
Andrew Carbonel, assistant supervisor of security at the mall, said he was in the center court area when he got a radio call and immediately went to the restroom.
Baoit was on his back on the ground in the restroom, with Abraham on top, Carbonel said.
"I saw him straddling the victim with his hands wrapped around the victim's neck, choking him," Carbonel said. "I grabbed the responsible to separate the two. Upon being removed from the victim, he was actually calm."
Asked to describe Baoit, Carbonel said: "His face appeared to be beat up, and his eyes did appear to be bugging out."
Wailuku patrol officer Rod Corso, who was among officers responding to the mall, said Baoit had bruises on his left cheek, multiple scratches and a puncture wound on the left side of his neck and a more than 3-inch laceration on the back of his head.
"There was a lot of blood on his shirt," Corso said. "His shirt was torn from the back. He had broken blood vessels in his eyes."
On the bathroom floor, police found a pair of safety scissors with rounded edges and 3-inch blades, Corso said.
Asked by Deputy Prosecutor Carson Tani to rate the pain level, on a scale of one to 10, as he was being first punched, then held in a chokehold and finally choked with two hands, Baoit replied 10 for all three instances.
Baoit, who is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 150 pounds, said the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Abraham is stronger.
Questioned by Deputy Public Defender Adriel Menor, Baoit said he didn't lose consciousness during the attack, which he estimated lasted about three minutes.
Corso said he saw Baoit standing as he talked to other officers and medics.
Police said Baoit was treated at the scene by medics, then went to Maui Memorial Medical Center for additional treatment.
The attack last week followed another unprovoked stabbing in another mall restroom near the Macy's men's, children's and home store on May 20, 2011.
Adam Mendoza, 22, of Makawao was acquitted by reason of insanity in the attack that left a 21-year-old Makawao man with a collapsed left lung from a stab wound to his back.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.