By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A police detective testified Wednesday afternoon that the suspect in a daylight knifepoint carjacking in the Hilo Target store parking lot told him he chose the victim because he “looked easy.”
Detective Grant Todd testified in the preliminary hearing for 19-year-old Alkapone Cruz-Balles that the defendant told him he went to the Makaala Street store “to take a vehicle.”
Cruz-Balles is charged with first-degree robbery and auto theft for allegedly pointing a knife at Alexander
Guimaraes and taking the 24-year-old University of Hawaii at Hilo pharmacy student’s 2013 white Hyundai Sonata sedan.
“He said he particularly picked this victim because he looked easy, easy for him to get the car from this particular individual,” Todd said. “He stated that the main reason for taking the car is he wanted to go see his girlfriend who was in Pahoa at the time.”
Cruz-Balles’ girlfriend, a 14-year-old Hawaiian Beaches girl, was in the courtroom at the start of the hearing, but she was ordered out of the courtroom because she could be called as a witness should the case go to trial. She did not testify Wednesday. Also in the courtroom were Cruz-Balles’ mother and other family members, who were allowed to stay during testimony.
Guimaraes said that he came out of Target after shopping at about 6:35 p.m. on July 17, put his groceries in the trunk, returned his shopping cart, and was accosted by Cruz-Balles when he got back to his car.
“He said, ‘Give me your keys or I’ll stab you,’” Guimaraes testified. He said that Cruz-Balles was holding a knife with a four-inch, serrated blade “very close, a few inches away” from his abdomen.
“I said, ‘Dude, seriously? No.’ And handed him my keys and ran away,” Guimaraes said, and added that he went back into the store and called 911 from the customer service station.
Under cross examination by Cruz-Balles’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Jeff Ng, Guimaraes said he had a cell phone but couldn’t use it because “I couldn’t push the buttons.”
He said he identified Cruz-Balles from a photographic lineup of six individuals as “the person who held a knife at me and threatened my life to give him my vehicle.”
Todd said that Cruz-Balles told him he drove to Pahoa taking “back roads to avoid the police.”
“He stated that he drove to the Pahoa town area, where he parked across the street from Luquin’s parking lot while his girlfriend was eating dinner,” Todd said. “He stated that a police officer came up behind him, turned on the blue light, and he sped off again. He stated that he went up to the Pahoa rubbish dump road, and when they passed, he came back down to evade them again and he went back to Pahoa town to pick up his girlfriend at Luquin’s parking lot.”
Police say they spotted the car later that evening at Isaac Hale Beach Park in Pohoiki and arrested Cruz-Balles.
Cruz-Balles did not testify, and shook his head as if to say “no” several times during the proceedings.
Hilo District Judge Harry Freitas ruled that probable cause exists to try Cruz-Balles and ordered him to appear before Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara for arraignment and plea at 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 6.
First-degree robbery is a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and auto theft is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
Cruz-Balles remains in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in lieu of $12,000 bail.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.