Shooting suspect pleads not guilty

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HILO — A 34-year-old Pahoa man accused of attempted murder and firearms charges in a Christmas Eve shooting is on probation for felony firearms and misdemeanor assault charges, according to court records.

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HILO — A 34-year-old Pahoa man accused of attempted murder and firearms charges in a Christmas Eve shooting is on probation for felony firearms and misdemeanor assault charges, according to court records.

Helani Ezekiel Kenui was sentenced Jan. 23, 2015, to 90 days in jail with 60 suspended and four years probation.

In exchange for his guilty pleas, prosecutors dropped another firearms offense, plus felony domestic abuse and terroristic threatening. He was sentenced to intermittent jail time, but was ordered to serve the 90 days as straight jail on July 15, 2015, for violating his probation by testing positive for cocaine and marijuana, court records indicate.

Through his court-appointed attorney, Stanton Oshiro, Kenui pleaded not guilty Wednesday to attempted first-degree murder, two counts of attempted second-degree murder and four firearms charges. Hilo District Judge Michael Udovic ordered Kenui to return at 2 p.m. today for a preliminary hearing.

According to court documents filed by police, at about 10:45 a.m. Saturday, Kenui approached 27-year-old Jake Lee in a parking lot in front of a warehouse at 160 Makaala St. and said, “What, you like get taxed,” then walked to a white Acura, returned and pulled a silver revolver from his waistband.

Lee reportedly told police he was trying to leave when Kenui pointed the revolver and fired a single shot into Lee’s vehicle with 26-year-old Anthony Palermo, a friend of Lee’s, inside. Police recovered a spent bullet from Lee’s car, documents state.

Documents state Lee and Palermo both identified Kenui from a photographic line up. Kenui and Lee are reportedly strangers; documents don’t clarify if Palermo and Kenui are acquainted.

An attempted first-degree murder conviction comes with a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, while attempted second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence with the possibility of parole. The attempted first-degree murder charge is because there are multiple alleged victims in the incident.

Kenui, who turned himself in to police on Monday, is being held on $1.525 million bail, but Deputy Prosecutor Glenn Shiigi asked Udovic to revoke his bail.

“The state would recommend that the court follow the recommendation of the (Department of Public Safety) Intake Service Center that Mr. Kenui be held without bail,” Shiigi told the judge, and referred to reasons contained in a bail study, which isn’t public record.

Oshiro said he’d object to a bail revocation “absent the state showing (Kenui’s) a flight risk.”

Udovic maintained Kenui’s bail and told Oshiro he could argue for reduction of the amount after today’s preliminary hearing.

Kenui was the victim in a bizarre stabbing incident a little more than a year ago in the Hilo Wal-Mart parking lot, not far from where the shooting incident allegedly occurred.

On Dec. 7, 2015, Kenui was stabbed three times to the face and head, and told police he’d been in a verbal confrontation with the then-32-year-old assailant, David James Nall. Kenui said Nall told him, “I’m going to kill you (expletive), see you in jail, when I kill you.”

Wal-Mart employee Wayne Yamashita reportedly disarmed Nall and store employees held him for police.

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Nall was convicted of second-degree assault and second-degree terroristic threatening and was sentenced April 1 to a year in jail and four years probation.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.