Officer states weapon was in plain view

The case against the principle suspect in the June 27 drive-by shooting incident at the Kapa‘a McDonald’s continued to move forward in District Court yesterday.

Judge Trudy Senda heard testimony from one eyewitness and three members of the Kaua‘i Police Department before determining that prosecutors successfully met the burden of probable cause and committing the first-degree attempted murder case to 5th Circuit Court.

Defendant Taekyu U, 26, of Kapa‘a, will choose on July 31 between pleading guilty to the Class A felony and contesting the charges at trial.

“So far, it’s gone as expected,” said County Prosecuting Attorney Craig De Costa.

Deputy prosecuting attorney Mauna Kea Trask questioned the three KPD representatives, Officers Vernon Scribner and Charles Dubocage and Detective Patrick Balbarino.

Scribner testified that he saw the defendant’s car, a silver-colored 1998 Honda Civic, just minutes after hearing police dispatch describe a similar vehicle leaving the scene of the shooting.

The officer said he performed a traffic stop at the junction of Leho Drive and Nehe Road, near Lihu‘e’s Lydgate Park, and saw a labeled box of “CCI Blazer ammunition” in plain view between the driver and passenger seats.

Scribner said he ordered the driver, a still-unidentified minor, out of the car and was putting him in handcuffs when the passenger, who the officer identified as U, also exited the vehicle.

A cursory search for weapons uncovered a set of metal knuckles in U’s rear pocket but no gun, Scribner said. He placed both suspects in custody in the back of his police cruiser and called for backup.

Dubocage testified that he was the first to arrive on the scene. Both doors on the suspect’s vehicle were open, and both suspects were already in custody, he said.

The officer said that a combination of streetlights, spotlights, headlights and his flashlight allowed him to see the rear of a gun protruding from under the passenger seat from his position near the front fender and side-view mirror.

Dubocage testified that he had a fellow officer photograph the fully-loaded Lorcin .380-caliber handgun in its position before recovering it and removing its magazine.

O‘ahu-based defense attorney Michael J. Green grilled the officers on the position of the gun, trying to determine if Dubocage’s description of its location as being “under” the passenger seat in his report meant that it was totally obscured from plain view.

The line of questioning could be critical to a potential defense motion to supress the evidence at trial.

Balbarino then testified that he executed a search warrant on the car on July 3, turning up one used bullet casing, matching both the box of ammunition and the gun, underneath the driver’s seat.

Both prosecution and defense attorneys said they expect results of ballistics and gun powder residue tests to illuminate other facts of the case soon.

Earlier, De Costa called eyewitness Troy Crawford to testify about his recollection of the incident.

Fellow McDonald’s patrons Norman Mooney and Alfred Earl Rogers, both visitors, and McDonald’s employee Rolan Dias, who required a translator, had taken the stand during the first half of the preliminary hearing on July 1.

De Costa amended the complaint yesterday to include a fifth alleged victim, Matheniah Milbrand, who did not appear during the preliminary hearing.

Green cross-examined Crawford regarding his location on the steps outside of the restaurant when he heard the shots, and had Crawford testify that he had not seen a car or any other potential source of the gunfire.

In addition to the attempted murder count, U is also facing charges of 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 metal knuckles — in connection with the June 27 arrest.

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.

It remains a possibility that the minor, arrested along with U, could be tried as an adult accomplice in the case.

The Hawai‘i Revised Statutes state that records pertaining to juveniles of a certain age arrested on suspicion of serious offenses can be released.

A Family Court spokeswoman said that court administrators would be out of the office and unable to comply with the record request until Monday, however.

• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or mlevine@kauaipubco.com

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