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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, November 24, 2001

Man spray-paints bank, sets car afire downtown

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

A man drove his early-model Mercedes to the intersection of King and Bishop streets yesterday, set the car afire and then walked in Bank of Hawaii, spraying fire extinguishers and red and blue paint into the doorway and lobby.

Police handcuffed a man suspected of setting his car afire and spray-painting the lobby of the Bank of Hawaii downtown.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Police and firefighters blocked off downtown streets and brought in hazardous materials team dressed in moon suits to test the white powder residue from the fire extinguishers and the bomb squad to test backpacks the man brought into the bank with him.

Field tests showed the extinguisher residue was free of anthrax. The bomb squad discovered a backpack full of the man's personal effects, according to Fire Capt Richard Soo and police Detective James Anderson.

"We just went all out because of the current climate," Anderson said, referring to the threat of terrorism and bioterrorism after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The incident snarled traffic for hours.

Anderson said the man did not seem to directing his behavior toward any particular individual inside the bank.

"He appeared to be a bank customer who was upset with the bank itself," Anderson said.

Anderson said the man, who was wearing a T-shirt and what appeared to be pajama bottoms when arrested, is a Honolulu-area resident in his mid- to late 40s. The car belonged to him.

Detective Roland Takasato said the man was arrested on a charge of criminal property damage.

Witnesses who worked across the street from the bank at 24 Hour Fitness said the car caught fire at about 4:30, after the driver tossed his burning cigarette lighter into the interior.

The driver then walked around to the trunk, pulled out a couple of backpacks and other items and walked into the bank, spraying a fire extinguisher into the air as he walked.

"At first, I thought someone was on fire and running to the bank," said Andrel Rivers, a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness. "But I couldn't figure out why the guy was aiming the fire extinguisher into the air."

Rivers, Deanna Hicks, a front-desk staffer at the gym, and George, a fitness consultant who did not want his last name used, followed the man.

Hicks said they met a security guard as they approached. By that time, she said, they could see the man inside, spraying paint as he walked through the doorway and "ya-hooing around inside the bank with the paint and a chemical fire extinguisher."

Rivers said the man turned the fire extinguisher on the security guard when the guard tried to approach. Rivers said he tried to make a run for the man, and the man turned the fire extinguisher on him, too.

"He looked like he went there with a plan," George said. "He just got out and nonchalantly threw his cigarette lighter in, then calmly walked around to the trunk to get his stuff out. "

Police were arriving by the time the man started leaving the bank, and he stopped and held his arms in the air.

Hicks, who suffers from asthma and a heart condition, was overcome by the smoke, paint and chemicals in the fire extinguishers. She was taken to The Queen's Medical Center and later released.

Police remained at the scene until 8 p.m.