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Attempted assault charge is upheld against Makawao man

Employee said he was ‘very scared’ as man brandished knife

WAILUKU — A felony threatening charge was dismissed, while an attempted assault charge was upheld against a man who was arrested after police responded to a report that he brandished a knife at a Wailuku restaurant.

James Keliikupakako, 19, of Makawao was seen hitting the ground with a crowbar in the parking lot of Kings BBQ & Chinese Restaurant at 197 N. Market St. the evening of May 1, according to testimony at his preliminary hearing Wednesday in Wailuku District Court.

Employee Dunhao Zhang, testifying through a Mandarin interpreter, said Keliikupakako approached and was about 4 feet away when he said, “I just came out from jail.”

Keliikupakako ordered and paid for a can of Sprite, Zhang said.

“He put the Sprite on the table and he took out a knife and poked on the Sprite,” Zhang said.

He said he was “very scared” and thought about running.

Zhang said he backed up and watched as Keliikupakako played with and swung the pocket knife.

Keliikupakako went around a table positioned to keep people from walking into the restaurant, Zhang said.

After he called police at 5:52 p.m., Wailuku patrol Sgt. Dennis Arnds responded from the Wailuku Police Station.

“I went down there to intervene,” said Arnds, who was the first officer on scene.

After passing the restaurant and seeing someone matching the description of the suspect, Arnds said he parked at the nearby Kahekili Terrace apartment complex, then walked up to Keliikupakako, “introduced myself and asked him how he was doing.”

In response to the officer’s “passive, friendly, pretty nice and courteous” approach, Keliikupakako “got up on his toes, bounced on his feet” and held up his fists and “tried to square off with me,” Arnds testified.

He drew his Taser.

“He immediately lunged at me, tried to swing at me three times in the face,” Arnds said.

He said he backed up to avoid the punches, which came within inches.

“I could feel the wind,” Arnds said.

He said another officer arrived, took Keliikupakako to the ground and handcuffed him.

Based on the testimony, Judge Kirstin Hamman said she couldn’t find probable cause for the first-degree terroristic threatening charge. She did find there was sufficient evidence for the charge of attempted first-degree assault on a police officer.

Keliikupakako also is charged with violating public health emergency rules for not wearing a face mask.

Deputy Public Defender Danielle Sears asked for bail to be reduced to $1,000, saying Keliikupakako is “without a lot of means.”

Deputy Prosecutor Joshua Kent recommended that bail remain at $10,000. He said Keliikupakako was arrested four days after being released from jail for disorderly conduct after he approached a random person on the street and made threats.

In a pending District Court case, he is charged with harassment and disorderly conduct, again against random people, Kent said.

Judge Hamman reduced bail to $3,000.

Keliikupakako appeared by videoconference from the Maui Community Correctional Center for the hearing Wednesday.

He is scheduled to be arraigned May 19 in 2nd Circuit Court.

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

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