Ala Moana murder victim identified, witnesses sought - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Ala Moana murder victim identified, witnesses sought

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The Medical Examiner's office has identified a man who was fatally stabbed Wednesday at the Ala Moana Shopping center as 23-year-old Brent Kanae of Honolulu.

According to investigators, Kanae was found at about 3 p.m. in a stairwell linking the third floor restaurant area that includes California Pizza Kitchen and the mall level makai parking deck.

Police said they had no suspect, but are seeking witnesses. 

Video surveillance did not capture the stabbing and police couldn't immediately find anyone on security video who appeared outwardly suspicious, sources told Hawaii News Now. Kanae suffered about three stab wounds to the chest and detectives did not recover a knife or other type of weapon from the scene, sources said. 

His friends were overcome with grief as they remembered him. 

"There's nobody in the world as nice as that person, and, Ola was it.  Always giving, didn't ask for anything," said Alexander Emerson, who teared up as he spoke to a reporter Thursday. While his family called the victim Keola, his friends referred to him as Ola.  

Kanae had just returned from a family vacation in California the day before the stabbing.  He died about one hour before he was to return to work for the 4 p.m. shift as a cook at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company at Ala Moana, friends said. 

"He was young, he had his whole life ahead of him.  He's one person who just loved to live.  He wanted to live, like, he had a positive vibe that couldn't help but feed off to everyone else around you," said friend Don Almarza. "A lot of friends would say, 'Oh, he's the tall guy who's always smiling.' He always was smiling, always laughing, and that was him." 

One of Kanae's biggest passions was dancing, Almarza and Emerson said. In recent months, he began performing with a group called Rawthentic which features break dancing, popping and other styles.  

Kanae and friends had all been out dancing the night before he died at Bar 7 on Kona Street, the former Venus nightclub just mauka of Ala Moana Center. 

Emerson said Kanae took a while to come out of his shell in the dancing group that performed at clubs and events, such as parties and weddings.  

"He was kind of shy at first and then he just started coming on the dance floor a lot, more than most of us, just because he wanted to show the new moves he learned or just loved the music and just loved to get down," Emerson recalled. 

Friends said they can't think of any reason why someone would want to kill Kanae. 

"Honestly, he was the type of person that doesn't have enemies.  If you met him, you would think no one hated him.  That was just the type of personality he was.  So that's why it's a shocker that this kind of stuff would happen to him," Almarza said. 

Friends sent Hawaii News Now photos of the stairwell where someone had written "RIP Keola" in red marker on the wall. The stairwell is not heavily used by mall customers.  Employees use the stairs to get from one level to another or to smoke, according to people who work nearby. 

Some friends theorized he was killed by someone who knew him, since he suffered multiple stab wounds, not the likely type of attack carried out by a random attacker.  

Kanae family said he was a 2007 graduate of Kalani High School, where he was a defensive back on the football team and performed in the orchestra, where he played the standup bass. 

He lived with his parents on George Street in Kapahulu. His uncle, who had flown in from Maui because of the killing, said his parents declined an interview Thursday, but may speak to the media in the days ahead.

Jim Dufault, chief operating officer of his employer, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., released a statement that said, "We are deeply saddened by the incident that occurred.  Our thoughts are with the employee's family, friends and co-workers."

Kanae did not have a criminal arrest record, a law enforcement source said.

Anyone with information on the crime is being asked to call police.

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