Victim and his father want mercy for suspect arrested in Po‘ipu assault

After initially wanting a Kaua‘i man prosecuted under the state’s hate-crime law for an unprovoked attack at Po‘ipu last month, the victim and his father now want Kaua‘i Police Department officials to have mercy on the man.

The local man, 19, was arrested last week on assault charges after allegedly shoving and punching Justin Bundschuh, youth pastor at Kauai Christian Fellowship, on what was Bundschuh’s last day of work at Nukumoi Surf Company near Po‘ipu Beach Park.

The suspect was charged with assault in the third degree, according to Cindy Mei Ozaki, county public information officer. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum one-year jail sentence and $2,000 fine.

Because he was released on his own recognizance, the county would not release his name, she said.

It was erroneously reported in the Saturday, Sept. 6 edition of The Garden Island that there was no arrest.

Bundschuh was not informed of the arrest, but said he and his father, the Rev. Rick Bundschuh, pastor at KCF, and the suspect had a long talk last week, discussing the 19-year-old’s life in detail.

“It was surreal. But he was full from the heart. He was willing to listen, willing to make amends,” Justin said of the suspect.

“We’re interested in his heart,” said Rick.

Justin said that the meeting was organized by an adult friend of the suspect’s, who approached the two pastors so that the suspect could apologize for the incident.

“He agreed he would start going to church,” said Rick.

All of his problems “date back to when he quit believing in God,” said Justin. “His real problem is trying to live his life without God.”

“His offense to me is minor compared to his offense toward God,” Justin added.

Rick said that he was hoping to get things to slow down with the KPD investigation.

“If he is wanting real help and real guidance, jail might not be the place for it,” said Justin. The help he needs “might not be justice; it might be mercy.”

Justin was in the middle of his last day of work last month, he said, while renting surfboards and snorkel gear at Nukumoi Surf Company, when he was attacked, pushed into a rack of surfboards, and punched, while his assailant screamed racial epithets at him.

In the first week after the incident, Justin Bundschuh was asking the KPD to treat the assault as a hate crime, which carries stiffer penalties than simple assault.

Ozaki said that the case is in the process of being turned over to KPD’s Investigative Services Bureau detectives, who will be continuing the investigation. It is up to the county prosecutor’s office to make more charges if the investigation warrants it, said Ozaki.

If prosecutors do decide to file hate-crime charges, it would be the first prosecution of anyone on Kaua‘i under the hate-crime legislation signed into law by former Gov. Ben Cayetano in 2001.

The hate-crime law allows for extended penalties, including prison sentences, for anyone convicted of a hate crime. Two people have been convicted in the state since the law was passed.

Staff Writer Tom Finnegan may be reached at 245-3681, ext. 226.

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