Puna murder suspect in court


By JOHN BURNETT

Tribune-Herald staff writer

The suspect in a fatal shooting in Puna chased a witness out of the home where the slaying occurred while brandishing a handgun, according to court documents filed by police.

Don Sambrana, a neighbor of both the suspect and victim, told police that he was in the same room and within 10 feet of the victim, 40-year-old Mateo D. Balinbin Jr. of Nanawale Estates, when the shooting occurred on Monday afternoon. Sambrana said he didn’t actually see the shooting, but heard a single gunshot and saw Balinbin “slumped to the ground … bleeding profusely to the head,” documents state. The shooting took place in Balinbin’s Maui Street residence.

Another neighbor, Mitchell Kamelamela, reportedly heard the gunshot, then saw Balinbin’s next-door neighbor, 43-year-old Seon Keoni Aki, running out of Balinbin’s house, chasing after Sambrana while holding a black semi-automatic pistol. He said that Aki was “yelling for Sambrana.” Sambrana also told police that Aki was yelling for him, saying “that’s why braddah boy is dead,” before leaving the scene, documents state.

Kamelamela told police that Aki “got into a black GMC pickup truck with the handgun” and left the area.

Police say that following a tip, officers arrested Aki at a home on Lemiwai Road in Hawaiian Paradise Park a couple of hours later.

At the time of his arrest, Aki had two live 9-millimeter rounds in his shorts pocket, documents state. Police Lt. Greg Esteban of the Criminal Investigations Section said Wednesday afternoon that a firearm had not been recovered.

Kamelamela positively identified Aki via a photo lineup, documents state.

Documents state that Aki requested a lawyer after being read his Miranda rights, and he was not interviewed by detectives.

Aki is charged with second-degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a separate felony, being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, and illegal place to keep a firearm. He was originally charged with first-degree terroristic threatening, as well, but Hilo District Judge Barbara Takase ruled Wednesday afternoon that probable cause didn’t exist to support the charge, which was dropped.

During Aki’s initial court appearance on Thursday afternoon, Deputy Public Defender Jennifer Ng told Hilo District Judge Andrew Wilson that the Public Defender’s office has a conflict and cannot represent Aki. A new attorney is expected to be appointed for Aki, who was ordered to appear again in court this afternoon. The judge also scheduled a preliminary hearing for Aki on Tuesday at 2 p.m.

Aki remains in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in lieu of $360,000 bail.

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

 

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