Accused convenience store robbers heading to juvenile court

Accused convenience store robbers heading to juvenile court

KALIHI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A third teenager has reportedly turned himself following community outrage over a violent convenience store robbery caught on surveillance video.

Two other teens, including one allegedly seen choking the store's 76-year-old owner, turned themselves in Tuesday.

Sgt. Kim Buffett of CrimeStoppers Honolulu called the violence senseless.

"She wasn't going to hurt them. She wasn't going to do anything. She didn't have a weapon," Buffett said. "I think this is where the outrage came in. And we want people to get mad, because when people get mad they get involved and we stop the crime."

Officials say that's exactly what happened.

Surveillance video and images from two separate robberies at the same Kalihi convenience store were released around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. By 6:45 that that night, the first suspect turned himself in.

"That video was awesome," Buffett said. "If somebody knows them, they're going to tell us who this is immediately. It wasn't a blur. It wasn't a blob. It was their faces right on camera."

After the video's release, social media exploded with tips and descriptions of the suspects from community members fired up and demanding the perpetrators be punished.

Cheryl Aiwohi, a neighbor and frequent customer, of Y-7 Grocery & Liquor store where the robberies happened, said the episode is a powerful lesson to young people.

"We got to rally as a community to let the people know and the kids, no, we're not going to tolerate this kind of stuff," she said. "When you do these kind of things to the kupuna in our community, we're here to stand up to help protect them."

According to officials, two of the three teens who reportedly turned themselves in have already been transferred to Family Court to face robbery charges.

Because they're minors the proceedings will be confidential.

Jeffrey Hawk, a criminal defense attorney, said Family Court typically tries to focus on protecting kids and rehabilitating them.

"We have to remember they are children. They're under the age of 18," he said. "We don't know what's going on with them. Clearly, something that happens with someone that young like this -- something is going on with their families."

Officials confirm it was a 15-year-old boy who allegedly held 76-year-old Maria Kim in a choke hold on Monday. He's been charged with second-degree robbery. The other teen was also charged Thursday with second-degree robbery.

A 17-year-old who is believed to have held up the same store last Friday -- in which Kim's husband, Yong Son, was threatened with a weapon -- is facing first-degree robbery charges.

"The maximum possible penalty for any juvenile offense is that they be locked up at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility until they're 19 years-old," Hawk said.

Hawk, who has extensive experience trying cases involving minors, says unless a teen has committed a serious felon, Family Court judges typically try to take the rehabilitation route over incarceration.

"We're here to help these kids and also punish them for their behavior, but there's a balance there," he said. "We don't want to lock these kids up in Halawa where they're with people they shouldn't be with. And on the other hand, if they're out hurting members of the public -- maybe they need some time out. Maybe they need to sit for some time to think about what they've done."

When a case goes through Family Court, the public is never told about the outcome. When minors turn 18 -- or in cases where they may have been sentenced to the maximum lock-up penalty and turn 19 -- their record is wiped clean.

"You're trying to balance someone who is very young and obviously did something very stupid and violent and illegal -- and on the other hand, you have someone who maybe can be redirected, who can maybe be a contributing part of our society with some care and with some nurturing," said Hawk.

Prosecutors can file a petition that allows the Family Court to waive their jurisdiction and send the case to adult court.

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