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Drive-by suspect appears in court

Drive-by shooting suspect Taekyu U appeared in District Court yesterday as the state began to outline its case against him in the first portion of a hotly contested preliminary hearing.

U, out on bail while facing charges including first-degree attempted murder, looked on while renowned O‘ahu-based defense attorney Michael J. Green cross-examined three eyewitnesses called to testify by County Prosecuting Attorney Craig De Costa.

Norman Mooney, a visitor from Las Vegas, Nev., testified that he was eating at the Kapa‘a McDonald’s just before the restaurant was set to close at 11 p.m. on Friday.

After an employee let him and three other patrons out to lock up for the night, Mooney was finishing his soda near the entrance when he heard two shots about one second apart, “felt something breeze by my head,” and saw two southbound cars, the second of which was a “silverish-gray Honda-type vehicle” with tinted windows, he said.

On cross examination, Green had Mooney testify that he had never seen U before, that he did not see a weapon, that he was not sure if the cars’ windows were up or down and that he did not know if the shots had been fired from the cars or from another location.

Green also aggressively questioned Mooney on the discrepancies between his testimony and the police report that was filed after his conversation with KPD investigators Friday night.

Alfred Earl Rogers, a visitor from Los Angeles, Calif., testified that he was also standing near the entrance after frequenting the McDonald’s when he heard “firecracker sounds.”

When asked why he associated the shots with the silver car, Rogers testified that the “direction of the sound waves carried from the shots were directly in line with that vehicle.”

Green raised questions about statements not included in the initial police report but made by Rogers in subsequent police interviews and court testimony regarding a silhouette in the car’s passenger seat and a flash of light inside the vehicle when the gun was fired.

Lastly, De Costa called McDonald’s employee Rolan Dias, who had let the patrons leave and locked the door at roughly 11 p.m.

Dias, using a translator to convert English to the Filipino dialect of Tagalog and back, testified that he heard a sound “like a popping balloon two times” and saw a car rolling up its passenger side window.

Green had Dias testify that he had remained inside throughout the incident and could not be sure where the sounds had come from.

The hearing could not be completed due to time constraints in Judge Trudy K. Senda’s afternoon schedule and was continued to July 18 at 8:30 a.m.

De Costa explained that he called yesterday’s three witnesses first specifically because he wanted to accommodate the Mainland visitors and take advantage of the translator’s services while all were available.

Deputy prosecuting attorney Mauna Kea Trask said he will likely be calling Troy Crawford, a friend of Rogers, two Kaua‘i Police Department officers involved in the investigation, and possibly another eyewitness, all of whom are based locally, when the hearing continues.

Green announced his intention to subpoena a third KPD officer who had written many of the now-contested witness reports on the night of the incident.

He also said after the hearing that he was anticipating the results of forensic tests.

“The physical evidence is going to be dramatic,” he said.

In addition to the attempted murder count, U is also being charged with carrying or use of a firearm in commission of a felony, unlawful place to keep ammunition, unlawful place to keep a pistol, and prohibited deadly weapon.

The gun allegedly used in the attack was a Lorcin .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol, and the prohibited deadly weapon reportedly in his possession was a set of metal knuckles.

If Senda determines on July 18 that the state has met a burden of probable cause on one or more of the charges, U will then have a choice between pleading guilty or contesting the charges at trial.

According to Kaua‘i County Correctional Center records, U is no longer in police custody. County spokesperson Mary Daubert announced previously that bail had been set at $250,000.

Another suspect, an unidentified minor who was arrested along with U after being found in a parked car in the vicinity of Lydgate Park shortly after the shooting occurred, is being held without bail at a juvenile detention center on O‘ahu.

He appeared via telephone in a Family Court hearing on Monday, according to Trask.

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