A woman who witnessed part of an early Friday morning stabbing in Wainaku said she was working on adrenaline to try to help the victim survive.
Cody Hughes, a neighbor to the 49-year-old Ohai Street man she referred to only as “John,” said she and her friend rushed to the driveway stabbing scene as it was occurring around midnight.
“Craig leaped over the fence and I ran around the fence,” Hughes said. “John was down. By the time we got to him (the assailant) was still stabbing him, so Craig tried to push the guy off. And when he did, the guy took off.”
Police arrested a suspect, 28-year-old Varaha Mims, at 7:36 a.m. Friday, on suspicion of three counts of attempted first-degree murder. Police say Mims, who is also the suspect in the stabbing of a 28-year-old Pahoa man and a 27-year-old Hilo woman on Keawe Street near Hilo Town Tavern just minutes earlier, was at the home of an acquaintance when arrested.
Mims remained in custody at the Hilo police cellblock Friday as detectives investigated the stabbings.
Hughes said she was covered in blood and “running back and forth to get blankets and whatever I could to help John out.”
“I was yelling for people to call the rescue, call the rescue and give me a towel,” she said. “I don’t think they understood what I was asking for, a towel. So I took my shirt off and that was the first thing that we used. It was really a horribly gaping wound, so this lady on the street, bless her heart, gave us this real thick sweater. All we could do was put pressure on it and wait for the ambulance to show up.”
Hughes expressed frustration with ambulance response time.
“All the neighbors called (911) when it happened. I could’ve walked him up to the hospital faster than what the ambulance got here. That’s a little sarcastic, but that’s what it seemed like,” she said. Hughes said there were so many police cars lining the narrow street, some were forced to move to allow the ambulance access.
East Hawaii Fire Battalion Chief Matthias Kusch said he understands the frustration but disputed the claim of slow response.
“I was reading a study about how adrenalin actually accelerates your ability to process things faster and time seems slower. … When you’re on-scene waiting, time goes really slow,” he said.
Kusch said several ambulances were dispatched because there was more than one crime scene.
We had (an ambulance) dispatched from Keaau at 0012 (12:12 a.m.) and it arrived at 0022 (12:22). That’s pretty fast,” he said. “The first units (from Central Fire Station) had its hands full with the Keawe Street incident. … They actually dispatched three ambulances to the second call, and a couple of them were cancelled.
“… The bottom line is, there was no prolonged response. We were on scene pretty fast.”
Hughes said the victim and Mims knew each other, and police referred to them as acquaintances.
“The guy broke out a window in (John’s) house, frame and all, a couple of weeks ago,” she said. She added that Mims had knocked the victim unconscious from behind last week in Puna.
“He did punch the victim last week in Keaau,” Lt. Robert Wagner of Hilo Criminal Investigative Division confirmed. “It does seem that the victim … may not have wanted to prosecute.”
Police say the Wainaku man was taken to Hilo Medical Center where he was listed in stable condition Friday. The Pahoa man was listed in critical condition. The woman was treated for her injuries and released.
Hilo Patrol Sgt. Lorenzo Artienda said the Wainaku stabbing occurred “within minutes” after the man and woman were stabbed near the Hilo Town Tavern.
“The stabbing wasn’t in the Tavern. It just happened to happen outside the Tavern,” said bartender Rebecca “Becks” Lake, who was on duty when the incident occurred.
“I didn’t know anything was going on outside until somebody came in and yelled, ‘Call 911. Somebody’s been stabbed.’ I was in the middle of making a drink,” she said. “Then somebody else came in asking for a towel, saying there was blood, that kind of thing. So I passed the phone off to our security, who had a better idea what was going on.
“So I took the stuff outside and asked if they needed any help and they said they already had a couple of nurses already out there with them, talking to them, helping them out until the ambulance came. There was a pretty big crowd forming around them, so I tried to bring everybody back inside who was out there, try to give the guy some space.”
Tavern owner Issa Hilweh said nobody really saw the Haili Street attack other than the assailant and the victims.
“It happened really fast,” he said. “My security team was outside, but their backs were facing the Tavern. … So they really didn’t see it. … Luckily, we had two nurses at the Tavern at the time and they came out and helped.”
Hilweh said security gave chase but the assailant got away. He said response by police and ambulance was within minutes.
Both Hilweh and Wagner said the Keawe Street stabbings appeared to be a random occurrence.
“I guess the two were walking (toward Haili Street) and the guy was walking toward Kalakaua Park. And I guess he just stabbed them without any words or anything,” Hilweh said.
Said Wagner: “There’s nothing in our investigation that leads us to believe that they knew this suspect.”
Hilweh said he closed the bar early to make sure everybody was OK.
“I don’t want downtown to be known as ‘that violent area,’” he said. “We’re concerned about people’s safety. That’s why we keep the security guard right outside.”
“We try to keep our customers safe. We try to keep everybody in the community safe,” Lake added.
Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaii tribune-herald.com.