2 men arrested, 1 charged in fatal Chinatown robbery

2 men arrested in fatal Chinatown robbery
Dane Salanoa (Image: HPD)
Dane Salanoa (Image: HPD)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
HPD officers seize illegal gambling machines from Cuties Cafe Saturday morning (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HPD officers seize illegal gambling machines from Cuties Cafe Saturday morning (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HPD officers seize illegal gambling machines from Cuties Cafe Saturday morning (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HPD officers seize illegal gambling machines from Cuties Cafe Saturday morning (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Police have arrested two men allegedly involved in a double shooting in Chinatown early Saturday morning.

One woman was killed and a man was critically injured.

The shooting took place inside Cuties Cafe at 36 N. King Street just before 2 a.m.

Police said two men attempted to rob the establishment before the shots rang out.

Benjamin Baniaga, who lives nearby, says he was asleep when he heard the loud noises. "I heard choke commotion really loud, I heard something break then a guy saying 'Hey, let go!'"

Paramedics arrived on scene around 2:30 a.m. and treated 44-year-old Tara Tevaga of Halawa with a gunshot wound to her chest. She was transported to a nearby hospital, where she later died.

Police say a 25-year-old man was also shot in the shoulder. He was taken to the hospital in serious condition and is expected to survive.

Shortly after the shooting, police say they were able to locate and arrest 29-year-old Dane Salanoa for investigation of robbery. He was later released pending investigation,

A second suspect, 30-year-old Alabanza Tuimaleali'ifano, was arrested Saturday night. As of Monday afternoon, he was charged for manslaughter, attempted murder and other firearms charges. His bail is set at $1 million.

Court records show Tuimaleali'ifano was also arrested in May for carrying a replica gun in a public place, but posted bail.

Meanwhile, undercover Honolulu police officers raided Cuties Cafe on Saturday morning, seizing at least 12 illegal gambling machines.

Barry Wagenvoord, who works nearby, says he's seen suspicious activity at the business for some time.

"That café place has been sketchy for a while," he said. "When they first opened up, they specialized with waitresses in lingerie and that seemed to stop for a while."

Wendy Khoang owns N.K. Wine Shop next door and told Hawaii News Now that fights break out often at the establishment.

The business has blacked out windows and security cameras.

"I always lock my door," Khoang said. "A lot of customers come in and ask why my door is locked during business hours, but I say it's for security purposes I have to do that."

It's no secret, Chinatown and the Keeaumoku areas are known to house illegal game rooms.  Law enforcement agencies have been working to shut them down for decades.

"As long as the customer needs that, there's going to be the existence of these gambling locations," says retired FBI agent Hilton Lui, who is now a private investigator.  He says he worked many game room raids before retiring in 1993.

Lui says there are actually less now than there were in the mid 1980's, but the way they operate has changed over the years.  Lui says instead of a few people owning multiple, large operations, he says, there are a lot of smaller ones now, often run by individuals.   He says that makes it harder for law enforcement to devote resources because it isn't often cost effective. "You need undercover officers," he says, "Then you need to seize the devices and the monies you get."

"It's not easy getting in there, they have that little security camera," says defense attorney David Hayakawa, "They have to buzz you in."  He says new customers need to be brought in by known players, and undercover officers can have a hard time even getting their foot in the door.   Hayakawa says Honolulu police and prosecutors do try, but even after a bust, the operation will often reopen somewhere else shortly after.

"I have always asserted that gambling is connected to dangerous criminal activity, and this shooting is an example of that." Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro told Hawaii News Now in a statement.

The Honolulu Police Department also sent us a statement saying they have executed more than a dozen search warrants this year on suspected game rooms.

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