LIHUE — A makeshift memorial sits near the end of the harbor jetty road where a Kalaheo man was shot just west of Nawiliwili Beach Park. Splotches of paint mark the area where spent shell casings and bullets struck the ground as evidence of the police investigation that night.
Kauai police are continuing to look into the Friday night shooting that left 21-year-old Mason Saio dead at Nawiliwili Harbor.
“We are unable to confirm the number of shots fired at this time due to the ongoing investigation,” said county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka.
The harbor entrance has at least two Homeland Security video cameras near the scene of the shooting. As part of the investigation, KPD is attempting to access that video, Tokioka said, but they haven’t been able to verify whether the cameras captured the event.
The owner of a sailboat at the small boat harbor said he and a fellow boat captain were trying to fix a broken water main around 9:30 p.m. Friday, when they heard what sounded like three gun shots.
The two had a conversation about whether it was gunfire or fireworks for about a minute when they heard five to eight more shots.
“When we heard the second grouping, we said, ‘OK, those were definitely gun shots,’” he said. “It just seemed awkward to me that there was such a long pause in between.”
Soon after the shooting, his friend fell off the dock and broke his arm. The two were at the Wilcox Memorial Hospital emergency room from 10:30 p.m. to about 4 a.m. and saw “very serious looking” police officers walk into the hospital.
Joyce Yamase, manager of The Garden Island Inn at Kalapaki Beach, just across the street from Nawiliwili Beach Park, said Saio had stayed at the hotel from Aug. 8 to 10 and reserved a block of rooms on the night of the shooting.
“He was supposed to come back that night and stay with us again,” Yamase said. “It’s just sad. He never showed up.”
According to county officials, the incident began shortly after 10:40 p.m. while Kauai Police Department officers were conducting a “routine check for criminal activity” in the Nawiliwili jetty area.
The officers came upon a gathering of adults and juveniles, including Saio, who was in a parked vehicle holding two firearms.
The officers told Saio to drop his weapons, according to county officials.
Saio allegedly threw one of the guns out of the car but held on to the other.
The officers repeatedly told Saio to drop his weapon, but he pointed the firearm toward the officers, according to county officials.
“To prevent their death or serious bodily injury, the officers fired their weapons to stop the threat,” a county news release states.
Saio died following the shooting.
Although Saio was reportedly with friends when confronted by police at the jetty, there were no other arrests that evening at the scene, according Tokioka.
At a roadside memorial set up near the scene of the shooting, friends who knew Saio stopped by to pay their respects.
Saio cruised there often and was with the boys when it happened, said one friend who didn’t want to be identified. It wasn’t unusual that Saio was at this spot on Friday, since it was one of his favorites, the friend added.
Other friends in the park described Saio as a tough, troubled, kind and talented individual who would give his lunch to someone if he thought they were hungry. He wanted to find a way out of his past and make a future for himself and his daughter.
“He wasn’t suicidal and didn’t want to end his life,” said Mahlon Callison of Koloa. “That wasn’t Mason, no way.”
Saio was “gangsta style” but wasn’t into the gun thing, Callison said. He liked to fight but would let the problem go soon after, he said.
“He had his ways, you know,” he said.
Saio was to have his re-trial begin next Monday on charges of first-degree robbery, attempted second-degree theft and third-degree assault charges. A jury failed to reach a verdict in December resulting in a mistrial.
He was the only one of four defendants in the January 2012 Koloa Chevron robbery case who refused a plea deal and took his case to trial in 5th Circuit Court.
The three other defendants in the Chevron robbery case pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay restitution for damages of $450.09 to Lahaina Petroleum LLC.
Kalai Hans Vicente, 20, of Kapaa was sentenced to five years in prison.
Josiah K. Kaluna, 19, of Koloa was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Clarence Montgomery Ka-Ne II, 22, of Koloa, was granted supervised release prior to sentencing which was postponed to allow him to testify in the Saio trial.
Saio was in custody at Kauai County Correctional Center until his parents, Bill and Lei Saio posted $100,000 bail following the mistrial. The state had objected to supervised release, noting Saio was on probation for a second-degree escape conviction.
As a convicted felon and while awaiting trial on new felony charges, Saio was informed by the court that it was illegal for him to possess firearms for any reason.
Since his trial, Saio reportedly did not stay with his parents in Kalaheo. He did not reportedly live with his partner or their daughter but would see them.
Saio frequented Hanamaulu Beach Park where organizations would come by with food and clothing, said Callison. He was known for cutting men’s hair.
“It was like a family,” Callison said. “Guys liked to tease him about cutting hair but they came to him because he did a good job.”
When Saio lived at the beach, he was one of the only people with cars, Callison said. He drove people to the store when he had gas.
Saio was “mellow” since his trial, Callison said. When Saio talked about the court case he had coming up, it was about putting it behind him and doing something with his life for his daughter and to make his parents proud.
“He was in a kind of limbo,” he said.
Bobbie San of Lihue, said he was fishing at the park Friday night and saw around 12 police cars drive in and shut down the other side of the park. A friend heard popping sounds but San said he was oblivious to it all.
“I didn’t know there was a shooting until I read it in the paper the next day,” San said.
• The name of the hotel manager as Joyce Yamase.
• The prior offense of Mason Saio as second-degree escape.
• The terms of Mason Saio’s release as bail and not supervised release.