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Victim: ‘It was burning, undescribable burning’

Attempted murder charge upheld in shooting last week near old Safeway

Manuel Nunes Jr. sits with his attorney, Matthew Padgett, on Wednesday afternoon in Wailuku District Court. Nunes faces attempted murder and other charges in the shooting of another homeless man last week on Hoohana Street near the old Safeway store in Kahului. The Maui New / LILA FUJIMOTO photos

WAILUKU — A man said he was walking away after exchanging words with another man when he heard “a loud kaboom,” then felt burning from being shot in the back of his head.

“I went into shock,” Doug Balinbin said. “It was burning, undescribable burning.”

At a preliminary hearing Wednesday afternoon for Manuel Nunes Jr., Balinbin testified about the shooting at about 4 a.m. Sept. 12 on Hoohana Street near the old Safeway store in Kahului.

Nunes, 36, who is homeless, faces attempted murder and other charges in connection with the shooting.

Balinbin, 28, said he was on his way to Wiki Wai Wash when he stopped at the closed Safeway store that morning to see his brother and found him in an altercation with Nunes.

Mariah Akima points out defendant Manuel Nunes Jr. while she testifies Wednesday afternoon at a preliminary hearing in Wailuku District Court.

Nunes and his wife were on the side of the Tutti Frutti store across the street from Safeway, and Balinbin’s brother was standing in the road, Balinbin said.

He said he got between his brother and Nunes, and Balinbin ended up trading words with Nunes.

“Things got a little escalated,” Balinbin said. “So I ended up turning to walk away.”

Nunes was standing on the sidewalk when there was a commotion and Balinbin heard someone say, “Oh, my God, he get one gun.”

Balinbin said he looked back and saw Nunes holding the gun with two hands and pointing it toward Balinbin’s head from 6 to 8 feet away.

Doug Balinbin is sworn in to testify Wednesday afternoon at a preliminary hearing for Manuel Nunes Jr. Balinbin said he was shot in the upper back and in the back of his head by Nunes while walking away from an argument at about 4 a.m. Sept. 12 on Hoohana Street near the old Safeway store in Kahului.

Police Detective Dennis Clifton said the weapon was a 1942 U.S. Navy World War II MKV signal flare pistol loaded with a 12-gauge birdshot shotgun shell.

Balinbin said he was hit in the back of his head and in his upper back.

“I ran to my brother,” he said.

At Maui Memorial Medical Center, where he was taken afterward, Balinbin said some of the shot was extracted but some remained in the back of his head, leaving holes that make it look like he has chickenpox.

Police said Nunes also was taken to the hospital after he was injured while being subdued by others after the shooting.

Balinbin said Nunes had been arguing with his wife that morning.

When defense attorney Matthew Padgett asked if Balinbin had ever challenged Nunes to a fight before he pulled out the flare gun, Balinbin said yes.

“I did because of the fact that we’re all struggling, everybody’s struggling,” Balinbin said.

“The whole girlfriend hitting,” Balinbin said. “I get one past, but I don’t do that stuff. I was basically stepping in for my brother — just settle this stuff.”

Mariah Akima, who was on the sidewalk of the old Safeway store, testified she heard Nunes and his wife arguing that morning.

Balinbin had turned around and was walking away when she heard the gunshot, Akima said.

She said Nunes had the gun.

“Dougie drops to the ground,” Akima said.

She saw “a lot of blood coming off him,” Akima said.

Sandra Muller, who was sitting in front of Safeway in a planter, reported hearing a boom and feeling something hit her, “like a bullet hit her,” said officer Patrick Fogarty, who went to the store after being dispatched at 4:24 that morning.

He said Muller reported feeling pain in her left temple, which was swollen and had a puncture about the size of a BB.

“She believed it was a ricochet from the bullet that was fired,” Fogarty said.

After the shooting, Muller said Nunes “came up and said, ‘Sorry, aunty, I had enough of Douglas,’ ” Fogarty said. He said Muller reported that Nunes was holding a 12-inch silver knife in one hand and a handgun in the other.

Detective Dennis Clifton testified that Nunes reported finding the firearm and three shotgun shells about six weeks earlier in a trash bin at nearby Wiki Wai Wash on East Wakea Avenue in Kahului.

When police recovered the gun, it had a spent 12-gauge Winchester shotgun shell in it, Clifton said. He said police also recovered two live Winchester 12-gauge shotgun rounds.

Nunes said he had an ongoing dispute with Balinbin and his brother, Clifton said. He said Nunes reported being assaulted by Balinbin earlier in the evening.

Nunes told the detective that Balinbin had pulled out a knife and slashed it at Nunes, who “felt something hot near his right eye.”

“He said at that point he pulled the flare pistol out of the shopping cart that he was using and pointed it in the direction of Doug Balinbin,” Clifton said.

He said Nunes reported that Balinbin was walking or running away when Nunes pulled the trigger. Nunes said the firearm didn’t discharge at first and he was lowering the gun to the ground when it suddenly went off, Clifton said.

Padgett asked Balinbin if he might have been hit by a ricochet from the ground.

“It was aimed right at my head, my lower back area,” Balinbin said. “So I don’t know how it would ricochet. Braddah man knew what he was doing. He not dumb.”

Wailuku District Judge Blaine Kobayashi found there was sufficient evidence to support felony charges against Nunes of attempted second-degree murder, two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a separate felony, carrying or possessing a loaded firearm on a public highway, second-degree assault and prohibited possession of a firearm.

Nunes is prohibited from possessing a firearm based on his January conviction for physical abuse with injury, Clifton said.

Kobayashi kept bail at $250,000 for Nunes, who was being held at the Maui Community Correctional Center. He is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 2 in 2nd Circuit Court.

Nunes’ wife, Blossom Edayan Nunes, 36, was arrested after she allegedly hid the gun from police. She was charged with first-degree hindering prosecution, keeping a firearm in an improper place and keeping ammunition in an improper place. Her bail was set at $16,000.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.