Hearing set for man arrested in Hilo Walmart confrontation

  • NIHIPALI

A Hilo Walmart store detective and a security guard told police a different story than an attempted robbery defendant about a knife the suspect had in his possession, according to court documents filed by police.

Shantel Sarandi, an asset protection investigator for the store, said that in the late afternoon on July 28, she saw 33-year-old Kekoa Nihipali of Hilo conceal several items of store merchandise in a red backpack and walk past cash registers without paying, documents state.

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Sarandi notified Allied Universal Security Officer Dominic Ramsical, and they attempted to detain Nihipali, but he became physically combative, attempted to push past them, and yelled that he had a knife, according to police.

Sarandi and Ramsical told police Nihipali reached into his pockets, and both thought he was attempting to retrieve and brandish the knife. They restrained Nihipali and placed him in a prone position on the ground.

Nihipali allegedly told police he went to Walmart to fill a prescription, browsed the sporting goods section while waiting, and left through the garden shop doors, where he was contacted by Ramsical and Sarandi, neither of whom were in uniform.

Nihipali said one of them grabbed him by the backpack, and a struggle ensued.

Nihipali told police that during the struggle, his X-Acto knife began poking into his hip, and he repeatedly said, “My knife, my knife.”

Nihipali told officers he began to reach for the knife, at which point the store agents put him on the ground, and the knife fell out of his pocket.

Nihipali had $64.18 worth of store merchandise in his possession, according to police. Also allegedly in his possession were six pills containing hydrocodone, a semi-synthetic opioid painkiller.

Walmart had issued a trespassing notice to Nihipali on June 26, prohibiting him from entering the store for a year, according to documents. Nihipali told officers he was didn’t have any stolen merchandise, nor was he aware of any trespassing notice banning him from the premises.

Nihipali was charged with attempted first-degree robbery, first-degree terroristic threatening, third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, habitual property crime and fourth-degree theft.

The most serious charge, attempted first-degree robbery, carries a maximum 20-year prison term upon conviction.

At Nihipali’s initial court appearance on Monday, Hilo District Judge Jeffrey Hawk maintained Nihipali’s bail at $82,000 and ordered him to return today for a preliminary hearing.

Nihipali remains in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center.

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

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