Vandals damage dozens of headstones at historic Kawaiahao Church

Updated: Jul. 4, 2019 at 5:55 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than two dozen headstones in the cemetery adjacent to the famed Kawaiahao Church were found damaged by vandals on Wednesday.

Cell phone video that was posted to Facebook earlier in the day showed what could only be described as a disturbing site ― 29 headstones, according to the video’s narrator, that had been toppled over from their perches and were now lying on the ground.

Some of the damaged headstones broken away from their concrete base plates and appear to have sustained serious damage.

“It’s awful,” said Kamuela Kalai, who has family buried in the cemetery. “I don’t have words. It’s shocking and I don’t know why anybody would do this. It’s desecration on another level.”

Yvonne Jinbo’s great-great-grandparents are also buried at Kawaiahao.

She found their headstone dismantled.

“I’m angry, I’m sad. I’m shocked, I’m disgusted," said Jinbo. "I can’t begin to tell you how angry I am about this.”

Jinbo says this isn’t the first time for her.

“Two years ago, on my dad’s side of the family, a similar thing happened at Makiki Cemetery. We have a family plot there with four marble crucifixes and it looked like somebody had just come and kicked them over,” Jinbo said.

Brickwood Galuteria, the chairman of the Kawaiahao Church Board, told Hawaii News Now that the damage is believed to have happened sometime either late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

Galuteria said a maintenance worker found the damaged headstones around 4:30 a.m.

He said the area has overnight security, but there are no cameras.

The church board declined to comment on the incident, other than to say that they were “shocked and dismayed” at the damage that had occurred.

Kalai said members of the public should be angered at the eye-opening act of vandalism.

“They’ve had gravestones desecrated up at Punchbowl, and the outrage has been tremendous,” Kalai said. “Well, the outrage here should be tremendous.”

The Oahu Island Burial Council Chair Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu says the timing of the attack makes her think this site was targeted.

“Before the American Fourth of July holiday tomorrow, this happens. This is not happening at an American or western cemetery, this is happening to an old Hawaiian cemetery,” she said. “It represents to me profanity to the Hawaiian community."

Police were notified of the incident, Galuteria said.

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