Golf course killings connected to gambling
|||Graphic: Where the victims fell|
By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer
The shooting at Pali Golf Course that left two men dead Wednesday was the result of a turf war between security forces that provide protection for illegal gambling houses, according to a police source with knowledge of the investigation.
Jeff Widener The Honolulu Advertiser
Malia Toyama, 12, of Kane'ohe, and her father, Kimo, look at a bullet hole in a window at Pali Golf Course following Wednesday's fatal shooting. Three men have been arrested in connection with the shooting.
Jeff Widener The Honolulu Advertiser
Police said the Pali shooting has connections to a July 30 brawl at a gaming house on Young Street between two groups that provide security for illegal game rooms, although it was not in retaliation for the earlier incident. The lone survivor of the Pali shootings, Tino Sao, 42 in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head was beaten at the Young Street gaming house and testified in court that he sometimes works as a security guard at illegal gambling houses.
Shortly before Wednesday's shooting, Rodney V. Joseph, 35, and the two other men who were arrested, Nixon Maumalanga, 30, and Ethan Motta, 34, attended a funeral at nearby Hawaiian Memorial Mortuary Park for Ray Gomes Sr. His son, Ray Gomes Jr., was stabbed with a paring knife in the Young Street brawl while working with Sao as a security guard at the gambling house.
A background check through the Hawai'i Criminal Justice Data Center shows Joseph has 13 convictions, 10 for felony terroristic threatening. A Makaha resident and competitive heavyweight kickboxer, Joseph turned himself in to police Wednesday. His attorney, Chris Evans, declined comment yesterday.
There was no indication of any problems at the funeral between the groups. After the funeral, the three shooting victims Sao, Romilius Corpuz, 40, and Lepo Utu Taliese, 44 and the three who were arrested drove across the street to the parking lot of the Pali golf course. After a brief encounter, as many as 10 shots were fired.
Taliese suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and waist and died at The Queen's Medical Center. His nephew, Felix Scanlan, confirmed his death Wednesday when he picked up his uncle's truck at the Pali Golf Course. Corpuz was shot in the head and died at Castle Medical Center.
Joseph, Maumalanga and Motta were booked on second-degree murder and attempted murder.
Maumalanga, 30, has two previous convictions, both minor traffic violations. Motta, 34, has one past conviction for reckless driving.
Motta was arrested Dec. 21, 2000, during a vice unit raid on a craps game at a Leilani Street business in Hilo, and was charged with 10 counts of gambling last February. Along with a craps table and gambling devices, officers seized more than $9,000 in cash. The raid was part of an undercover investigation into Hilo gaming houses.
Motta was arrested Wednesday at the Honolulu International Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Hilo.
The two dead men, Taliese and Corpuz, had 21 convictions between them. Taliese, who had 12 convictions, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for murder in 1980, but had his sentence commuted by former Gov. John Waihee in 1994.
Corpuz's convictions include two for robbery and two for car theft.
Sao is slated to testify against Robert Kaialau III, 33, of Nanakuli and Solomana "Solo" Nakagawa, 29, of Waikele, both of whom are facing felony assault charges stemming from the Young Street incident.
Jim Fulton, spokesman for the city prosecutor's office, said the trial is scheduled to start next month but will most likely be delayed.
Hawai'i is one of only two states where all gambling is illegal, but gambling houses have been active in Hawai'i for years, police said, with six still operating on O'ahu.
The 1960s and 1970s were the heyday of Honolulu organized crime turf wars that involved battles over illegal gambling games.
Today, turf violence and warring factions of security guards are rare because the illegal operations must maintain their anonymity to remain profitable, police said.
But gambling-related violence occurs occasionally. In 1993, for instance, Russell Cullen shot two people in a downtown Honolulu parking garage in a dispute over money from a Chinatown gambling operation. He was convicted of attempted homicide.
The Pali shooting erupted at about 1:15 p.m. Wednesday as stunned golfers looked on. When police arrived, they found Corpuz and Sao wounded in the clubhouse next to the door of the pro shop and Taliese bleeding near the first tee box.
Police said the men arrived in two cars and that the argument before the shooting started was brief.
Homicide Lt. Bill Kato said police are continuing the investigation and are unsure about how many people fired shots. He said police found bullet casings from two handguns, a .22 caliber and a .380.
Neither of the weapons has been recovered.
Kato said police are looking for a black Ford Taurus that some of the suspects used to flee the golf course Wednesday.
The golf course opened yesterday morning to curious golfers wanting to get a look at the crime scene. Drops of dried blood remained throughout the parking lot. In the main building's concourse the smell of pine-scented cleaner used by the course's maintenance crew filled the air.
Business has been slow at Pali in the past few months because of the condition of the course, and yesterday was no different. A worker in the starter's office said there were open tee times but few cancellations.
Dean Mailheau of Kane'ohe played nine holes at the Pali and said he had no thoughts of the shootings.
"You just don't expect anything like that at a golf course," Mailheau said. "But there was no hesitation to come out here. If I hadn't heard it on the news or read it on the paper, I wouldn't have known about it."
Advertiser Staff Writers Jim Dooley, Rod Ohira and Curtis Lum contributed to this report. Reach Peter Boylan at 535-8110 or email@example.com.