HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Darius Ikaika Puni-Mau was at the Circuit Court building to be sentenced for violating his probation. Around mid-day Wednesday he made his great escape.
Puni-Mau was in a booth at the back of the courthouse interview room, waiting for his attorney. The area was crowded. A sheriff wasn't watching when he reached up, pushed through a ceiling tile and lifted himself into a narrow opening. He left one of his slippers in the room and the other in the ceiling space.
"He made his way, using the supports for the different conduits and AC venting," State Sheriff Shawn Tsuha said.
Puni-Mau crawled forty feet, found an unoccupied custodian's closet and dropped into it.
"That allowed him access into the hallway on the private side. Unfortunately, about five feet away was a fire exit. He just waited until the hallway was clear and went out the exit," Tsuha said.
The ceiling space was full of particle dust. Puni-Mau left footprints in the hallway and stairwell. He exited through a door on the building's backside near a charter school and businesses. Sheriff's deputies secured the area and didn't think anyone was at risk.
"We were thinking that he's already left the building. He's not going to stay in the building," Tsuha said.
The Sheriff Department's Fugitive Unit caught Puni-Mau Thursday morning in the parking lot of the Safeway store at Pali Highway and Vineyard Boulevard, one of several spots they staked out.
"We sat teams down all night in these different areas, and sure enough he popped up," Tsuha said.
Puni-Mau is the first person to escape from the Circuit Court building.
"It took a lot of confidence to get up in that ceiling, in that short of a time frame, and then to have the patience to move so that he didn't bust through that false ceiling," Tsuha said.
The daring getaway has authorities reviewing procedures, and working to secure the ceiling in the interview room to prevent other prisoners from following in Puni-Mau's footsteps.