Suspect arrested in brutal attack that drew warning from Japanese consulate

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Police have arrested a 20-year-old man in connection with the brutal assault of a Japanese couple, which led to a warning to visitors from the Consulate General of Japan in Honolulu.

The consulate issued a caution to its citizens here to be aware of criminal activity in Kakaako. The area has become popular because of the number of huge murals, which the Japanese call "art walls."

The warning was posted on the consulate website after the couple was injured in the attack on Memorial Day. Authorities said the two entered a restroom at Mother Waldron Park. The park was closed for repairs the next day due to damage blamed on an influx of homeless people.

The couple and their adult daughter were visiting the district to see the murals, which are now well known to Japanese visitors. The new alert specifically urges travelers to avoid using public restrooms in the area.

The alert says the couple came upon several people doing drugs and were attacked. The violence included blows to the head and choking, and both reported cracked teeth among other injuries.

Police said the suspect is not homeless and that the attack was unprovoked. He was arrested on several outstanding warrants and two counts of second-degree assault.

Police also said officers check the area regularly and that assaults at Mother Waldron Park are rare. The department did not directly criticize the consulate's message, which suggested widespread criminality in the district.

The consulate warning is in Japanese and the consulate would not make an English translation available. A rough translation indicates that visitors who visit Kakaako need to be aware of purse snatchings and other crime in the area, which the message says is not as well-patrolled as Waikiki.

A spokesman for the consulate told Hawaii News Now that such warnings are not unusual. A similar warning about "boy gangs" that had developed in Waikiki was posted a few weeks ago after another incident involving a Japanese bridal couple.

The spokesman said all Japanese travelers are expected to register with the consulate, and anyone who registered would have been alerted to go to the website to read the warning. He said that meant that the warning was certainly seen by "many, many people."

Jessica Lani Rich, of the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, said her organization is trying to find a way to raise money to help the victims pay tens of thousands in medical bills. She says they have already returned to Japan after being treated in a hospital.

On Friday afternoon, Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued a statement on the assault:

"This attack goes against everything we stand for as a community, and if found guilty, I want the alleged perpetrator to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Honolulu remains one of the safest big cities in the nation, but we must remain vigilant and do all that we can to ensure that our residents and visitors always feel safe at our parks and other public areas."

The mayor's office added the individuals who had been living near the park provided a good description of the suspect to investigating officers.

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