HONOLULU — A man whom defense attorneys claim was the target of bullying that led to a deadly confrontation between a federal agent and another man testified that he didn’t feel threatened during the incident at a Waikiki fast-food restaurant.
Michel Perrine was a customer at the McDonald’s when Kollin Elderts was shot and killed. The agent charged with murder claims he intervened because Elderts was bullying Perrine with racial slurs.
Perrine testified that he had been drinking before going to the restaurant in the early hours of Nov. 5, 2011. He said he doesn’t remember much about the encounter but did recall hearing Elderts use the word “haole,” which means white person, but just shrugged it off.
“I don’t feel like it was that threatening of a situation,” Perrine said, according to KHON-TV.
Perrine testified on Thursday, the fourth day of the trial of State Department Special Agent Christopher Deedy, 29, of Arlington, Va., who has pleaded not guilty to murder in the shooting of 23-year-old Elderts, of Kailua.
Elderts had just ordered food when Perrine entered the eatery, while Deedy and his friends were getting ready to leave.
Prosecutors say Deedy was intoxicated and primed by a warning from a fellow agent that locals are hostile toward outsiders.
In other testimony, Special Agent Ben Finkelstein said he had explained to Deedy that the word “haole” can be a derogatory term, and that Hawaii is mostly friendly but some locals dislike federal agents and mainlanders, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
Prosecutors say the warning led Deedy to arm himself when he went bar-hopping after arriving in Honolulu to help provide security at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Finkelstein also explained why some agents carry guns, even when they’re off-duty.
“I said a firearm is like a pen. I walk through every day with a pen in my pocket, because I may need to write something and some days I may not, but it’s there in case I need it,” Finkelstein testified, according to KITV.
Observers are paying attention to how the racial issues unfold during the trial, Hawaii News Now reported.
“If you have three Caucasian attorneys trying to help a haole boy that is not from here, doesn’t live here, has no ties here, was here for a very short time and then hurts a local boy, that can be damaging,” said Megan Kau, a Honolulu defense attorney and former prosecutor who isn’t involved in the case.
Testimony will resume on Monday.