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Walmart security ‘feared for our life’ when man pulled gun

Judge rules that evidence sufficient to support charges

WAILUKU — Three Walmart employees testified that they were shocked and scared when a man brandished what looked like a handgun after he was stopped for shoplifting at the Kahului store Saturday evening.

“We feared for our life, that’s the first thought,” security officer Tony Knight said.

At a preliminary hearing Wednesday in Wailuku District Court, Knight and two other security employees identified Brandon Fukumoto, 32, as the shoplifter who was stopped inside the store at about 6 p.m.

When Knight approached Fukumoto and asked if he had any store merchandise in his bag, “he just began emptying the bag” and handed over merchandise, including a machete and a DVD player, Knight said.

He and security officer Calvin Johnson, along with asset protection manager Lorena Ayonayon, tried to get Fukumoto to go to the asset protection office so they could process him as a shoplifter and issue a trespass notice.

Fukumoto said he had warrants and couldn’t go to jail, the security officers said.

“He was begging to just let him go,” Knight said.

“He was asking each one of us three if we were going to call the cops,” Johnson testified. “Then he had backed up, lifted up his shirt and pulled out a gun. Then he walked out the store.

“I was scared and surprised because I wasn’t thinking that it was going to go to that level.”

Fukumoto held the gun toward his side and didn’t point it at anyone, Knight and the other security employees said.

Ayonayon testified that Fukumoto said, “I’m not

f—ing going to jail” when he showed the gun to the security officers.

“I was shocked,” she said. “I guess everybody took a step back. I just stood there surprised that someone would actually do that.

“He could have done anything to us. He could have shot at us,” Ayonayon said. “You never know what anyone could do with a gun.”

“We didn’t want to take any chances,” Knight said. “We let him exit our store. Our lives were more important.”

He said he saw an orange tip on the black handgun.

Wailuku patrol officer Ervin Anduha, who responded to the store, said he identified the shoplifter as Fukumoto after viewing a surveillance photo.

Anduha said he couldn’t see a weapon in the video.

“But I see three people raising their hands back, and I see Fukumoto leaving the store,” Anduha said.

After an all-points bulletin was issued, officer Thomas Simmonds went to Fukumoto’s residence on Puunene Avenue at about 11 p.m. Saturday and saw Fukumoto’s black Toyota Corolla parked in front.

Fukumoto’s grandmother was standing in the doorway and said Fukumoto was sleeping in the living room, Simmonds said.

Simmonds said he detained Fukumoto and took him out of the house.

At first, Fukumoto said that he pulled up his shirt and exposed a knife after being wrongly accused of shoplifting at Walmart, Simmonds said.

But Fukumoto changed his story after agreeing to allow police to search him, his vehicle and residence, Simmonds said. He said he found a box of three carbon dioxide cartridges in the vehicle and a black BB gun and pipe containing heroin residue in Fukumoto’s blue backpack in the residence.

Fukumoto then said the BB gun was the weapon he had used at Walmart, Simmonds said.

“It resembled an actual firearm,” Simmonds said.

After being transported to the Wailuku Police Station, Fukumoto provided additional information and said he had brandished the firearm while telling store employees to leave him alone, Simmonds said.

“He brandished it as if it were a real weapon,” said Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Temas. “It substantially resembled a firearm. It was perceived to be a firearm.”

He said it was “frightening” that Fukumoto brandished the weapon while the store and parking lot were full of holiday shoppers.

“He’s passive in his language,” Temas said. “He’s aggressive in his actions.”

Deputy Public Defender Zach Raidmae argued there wasn’t enough evidence to support one of the first-degree terroristic threatening charges, noting that there wasn’t any yelling to attract the attention of shoppers and the store wasn’t evacuated.

Judge Kirstin Hamman ruled there was enough evidence to support the charge, noting that it alleges Fukumoto acted “in reckless disregard of the risk of causing an evacuation.”

“It doesn’t contemplate an actual evacuation having to occur,” Hamman said.

She also found probable cause for three other counts of first-degree terroristic threatening of the security employees and a count of third-degree promoting of a dangerous drug.

Hamman kept bail at $50,000 for Fukumoto, who is being held at the Maui Community Correctional Center.

He is set to be arraigned Dec. 26 in 2nd Circuit Court.

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

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