Kapahi murder suspect claims self-defense

Payton Rapozo, the 23-year-old Wailua man accused of second-degree murder in connection with Sunday’s shooting death in Kapahi, made his preliminary appearance yesterday in District Court, and his attorney wasted no time in outlining the case for a self-defense claim.

“Police have confirmed that the decedent threatened family members the night before (the shooting) with a pistol and with a shotgun,” defense attorney Nelson Goo said outside the Lihu‘e courthouse. “(Police) also found a loaded shotgun in a truck that was accessible to the decedent (on the day of the shooting). … We’re not dealing with an angel here.”

The deceased, identified Wednesday as 43-year-old Kapahi resident Antonio Torres, was romantically involved with Rapozo’s mother, according to county spokeswoman Mary Daubert. Alleged threats made to the mother and other family members open the door to self-defense and defense-of-others claims, Goo said.

Testimony from police officers and paramedics provided enough evidence to convince substitute Judge Joseph N. Kobayashi, filling in for District Court Judge Trudy Senda, that the burden of probable cause had been reached, according to deputy prosecuting attorney Mauna Kea Trask.

The case will be transferred to 5th Circuit Court, where Rapozo will choose between pleading guilty and not guilty on Oct. 30. Should the case go to trial, he and Goo will have the opportunity to make the self-defense argument before a jury.

In addition to the murder count, which alone could earn Rapozo life in prison without the possibility of parole, other charges include carrying or use of firearm in the commission of a separate felony, a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and illegal possession of a firearm, a Class C felony that could add five years imprisonment to the tally.

The weapon used in the attack was a .22-caliber revolver pistol of undetermined ownership, Daubert said. Following the shooting, relatives of Rapozo already at the scene subdued him. There were no other injuries.

According to Kaua‘i Police Department records, bail was originally set at $1 million. Officials at the Kaua‘i Community Correctional Center confirmed late yesterday that Rapozo was still in custody and that his bail had been unaffected by the preliminary hearing.

Rapozo’s criminal history includes convictions for first-degree attempted assault and first-degree terroristic threatening in connection with a January 2007 incident in which he doused a police officer with gasoline and threatened to set him on fire.

In that case, he walked toward Chris Gandeza, who was responding to a domestic abuse call, with two knives, a cup of gasoline and a butane lighter.

Rapozo was initially charged with attempted murder, but eventually pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

Despite the fact that Rapozo could have been imprisoned for 15 years for the crimes to which he pleaded guilty, 5th Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe sentenced him to just a year in prison with credit for time served while awaiting trial, as well as five years probation.

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