Knife threat just latest incident in Kahului area

Discussion among area businesses and government officials forthcoming

While the old Kahului Safeway parking lot has been cleared, homeless people still occupied spaces along the sidewalk in this photo taken Tuesday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

By thinking quickly and reacting appropriately, 55-year-old Kim Bak-Young said she avoided injury while being threatened with a knife last week at a Kahului building in an area plagued by homeless issues and other incidents, including a shooting.

Bak-Young was walking up the stairs of the Kahului Office Center across the street from the old Safeway along Hoohana Street around 10 a.m. Sept. 26 when she was met by an man in his 60s coming the opposite way down the stairs.

The man, who was barefoot and unkept, asked her for money.

Bak-Young told the man she didn’t have any money. The man then demanded her bag, which she gave him because it contained only paperwork, which she could replace.

The man pulled out a kitchen knife with about a 6-inch blade.

Kahului resident Kim Bak-Young was heading to see a client in the Kahului Office Center near the old Kahului Safeway on Sept. 26 when she was threatened in a stairwell, which she is pointing at, by a man with a knife. She managed to escape.

“I’m thinking quick. . . . He was waving the knife at me, back and forth,” she said.

Never taking her eyes off the man, Bak-Young, a former security guard for hotels and private properties, used her knowledge and experience and was able to take a step back with her right foot to move farther away from the knife.

“He didn’t see me move backward . . . (then) something wen distract him. He wen look (at) something,” said Bak-Young, who is only 4 feet, 11 inches tall. “I wen run. I ran to the parking lot. I hid behind a truck.

“If I run out on the road, he’s going to see me.”

She was able to make it to her car in the parking lot and called police. She said Tuesday that police are still looking for the man.

The community has been concerned about homeless people in the area of the old Kahului Safeway, which closed over the summer. In September, there was a nonfatal shooting involving two homeless men along the street next to the old Safeway and a fatal car crash in the old Safeway parking lot. This photo taken Tuesday shows that the homeless people have been cleared out of the parking lot.

Bak-Young said she is speaking out about the incident because she wants others to be safe and to be able to think quickly on their feet. She urges people to keep calm.

“(It) could happen to anyone,” she said.

The incident is the latest in an area where community members and businesses are concerned about a growing homeless population.

On Sept. 12 at around 4 a.m., a homeless man shot at another homeless man on Hoohana Street near the Kahului Office Center and the old Safeway. Police said the victim was shot with a 1942 U.S. Navy World War II MKV signal flare pistol loaded with a 12-gauge birdshot shotgun shell.

The victim, who was shot in the back of the head and upper back, survived. Manuel Nunes Jr. has been charged with attempted murder in the shooting.

Hours earlier at around 5 p.m. Sept. 11, a 41-year-old man driving an Acura hit cars and climbed over a raised parking island in the old Safeway parking lot fronting Kamehameha Avenue and died from his injuries. Witnesses said the man, who frequented the parking lot, appeared to be suffering from a medical condition. He was identified as Jeremy Tackett, 41, of Kahului.

After the September incidents, Maui County Council Member Tasha Kama called for the community to come together, address the situation and help those in need.

Kama said earlier this week that she and other council members and Mayor Michael Victorino’s office are working on arranging a discussion session with businesses and area landowners at the end of this month.

She said it is a good idea to hear from businesses about what is going on in their areas. Kama also has reached out to area landlords as well.

“I think we should all be involved. It’s not a one person problem, it’s all of ours. This is our community, we need to take care of our people here,” she said.

The Kahului Office Center, where the knife threat incident took place, is owned by Alexander & Baldwin Properties, according to county property tax records.

A&B spokesman Darren Pai referred questions about the knife threat to the Maui Police Department. He did add that “safety and security are priorities for A&B, and we always work closely with the police.”

Last month, Safeway, which continues to lease the old store site along Kamehameha Avenue from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, said they have a security guard on premises 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Kama said last month that Safeway said it was going to increase security at the site in the wake of the shooting and fatal crash.

The homeless people who used to live and loiter in the old store’s parking lot are now gone. Shopping carts and personal items can be seen on nearby sidewalks.

Maui police are seeking the public’s help in finding the suspect in the knife incident.

Bak-Young described the suspect as an African American male; 5 feet, 4 inches tall; with dreadlocks and wearing a light black collared shirt and jeans shorts. He had a black-and-white curly full beard and ran with a distinct side-to-side hobble or wobble.

Police said they were called to the robbery incident around 10:30 a.m. Sept. 26. Anyone with information on the identity of the individual is asked to contact Maui Crime Stoppers at 242-6966 or the Maui Police Department at 244-6400.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)