Tenant said he used board to block gun in struggle with landlord
Kihei man faces firearm, burglary, threatening charges
WAILUKU — A man said he was holding a 3-foot-long shelf board to try to protect himself during a struggle with his landlord when a gun was fired in a Kihei residence last month.
“He came at me,” Thomas Jones testified Tuesday at a preliminary hearing for James Bergantino, 63, of Kihei. “The gun went off.
“I thought it was a blank at first,” Jones said. “I couldn’t believe he had it loaded.”
Jones identified Bergantino as the one who kicked in the door to the downstairs unit and brandished the gun while Jones was in his bedroom with a friend at about 9 p.m. Dec. 27 at the residence on Kaahele Place.
“He came in threatening to shoot us,” Jones said. “He was waving the weapon at me and her. He said, ‘I want you out or I’ll shoot you.’
“In the moment, he was saying all kinds of crazy things.”
Jones said he was holding the board in front of him while Bergantino tried to reach over the top with his right hand, which was holding the gun.
Under cross-examination by Deputy Public Defender Zach Raidmae, Jones acknowledged he was pushing the gun up with the board when the shot was fired.
A bullet hole was found in the ceiling right above the entrance to the bedroom, said Detective Nick Angel. He testified he located a .45-caliber revolver on the ground beneath the bottom stair at the front entrance of the residence after Bergantino told another officer where the gun was.
Bergantino appeared by videoconference from the Maui Community Correctional Center for the hearing Tuesday in Wailuku District Court.
Judge Blaine Kobayashi found there was sufficient evidence to support the charges of use of a firearm in the commission of a separate felony, first-degree burglary, first-degree terroristic threatening and first-degree reckless endangering against Bergantino.
Kobayashi kept bail at $150,000 for Bergantino, who is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 26 in 2nd Circuit Court.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.