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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Lawyer says Waipi'o murder suspect fired in self-defense

By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer

A man accused of murder had no intention of shooting a Good Samaritan in the chest in front of a Waipi'o Acres home last summer, but had to act "in a split second" to protect himself and others, defense attorney Keith Shigetomi told a Circuit Court jury in his opening statement yesterday.

Shigetomi said his client, Joseph Poomaihealani, had taken a gun away from another defendant in the case, Brandon Lizardo, moments earlier on the night of Aug. 12 to keep Lizardo from further harming Brian Chamberlin, who was living at a house on Waimakua Drive in Waipi'o.

Poomaihealani was getting in a car to leave when Chamberlin's neighbor, Bernardino "Dino" Arado, who had just returned home from a golf outing, approached to find out what all the commotion next door was about, Shigetomi said. Arado was much bigger than Poomaihealani, was carrying a 45-inch golf club in his hands and Poomaihealani had no idea what Arado's intentions were, Shigetomi said.

"The only need and desire (Poomaihealani) had was for protection," Shigetomi said.

But City Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter told the jury that an evening filled with "senseless acts of violence" resulted in Arado's death, Chamberlin's severe beating and a third man, who lived in the same house as Chamberlin, fearing for his life.

Van Marter told the jury that Poomaihealani shot Arado, 38, at point-blank range in the chest with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun because he was concerned Arado would tell police what he had seen at his neighbor's house.

Poomaihealani went on trial in Circuit Judge Wilfred Watanabe's courtroom on charges of murdering Arado, first-degree assault and firearm violations. Also on trial are Poomaihealani's brother, John, on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm, first-degree assault and terroristic threatening and Brandon Lizardo on charges of first-degree assault and terroristic threatening.

According to Van Marter, Joseph Poomaihealani, his younger brother John and Lizardo earlier in the evening had gone to a karaoke club in Pearl City with three young women. At about 8 p.m, the group left the club to go to Wahiawa to pick up Lizardo's sister.

On the way to Wahiawa, the group stopped in front of the house in Waipi'o so that Lizardo could talk to Daniel Keola, Van Marter said.

He said Lizardo asked Chamberlin, who was sitting in front of the house, where "'Ola" was. But Chamberlin did not recognize Keola by that name.

Van Marter said it eventually dawned on Chamberlin that Lizardo was asking for Daniel Keola and he went upstairs to get him. When the two men returned, Lizardo accused Chamberlin of "giving him attitude," Van Marter said.

He said Lizardo shoved the gun under Chamberlin's chin and threatened to shoot him. Lizardo then began to savagely beat Chamberlin and the Poomaihealani brothers joined in, Van Marter said.

Arado, who had returned from his golf outing moments before, was merely trying to find out what the commotion was about, Van Marter said.

John Poomaihealani's attorney, Walter Rodby, told the jury that Lizardo took the gun with him to the karaoke room and that John Poomaihealani was so eager to leave the area where the beating had happened that he ended up driving Lizardo's car.

After the shooting, it was John Poomaihealani who suggested to everyone in the car that they turn themselves in, Rodby said. He said Lizardo's "vicious beating" of Chamberlin is what led to Arado's death.

Lizardo's attorney Richard Gronna said the evidence will show that Chamberlin's "crummy attitude" resulted in his being beaten.

Gronna said Chamberlin directed a string of expletives at Lizardo and continued even after Daniel Keola came downstairs. At one point, Chamberlin approached Lizardo, who feared he was going to be struck, Gronna said. Lizardo threw and landed the first punch, he said.

"Then the whole thing began to unravel and the (Poomaihealanis) saw the opportunity and jumped in," Gronna said.