In suit, family claims fatal machete attack at Maui mall was preventable
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The family of a Maui man killed in a brutal machete attack at Queen Kaahumanu Center is suing the mall, its security firm and Maui County, claiming his death could have been prevented.
The 23-page lawsuit outlines a history of violent attacks that happened in the same restroom where Alex Cerezo was murdered. The 35-year-old was the third person to be stabbed there since 2011.
The Cerezo family’s attorney, Jeffrey Foster, alleges the violence was ignored and ended up costing the young father his life.
“Alex’s death could have prevented,” he said. “There were notifications. There were observations. There were signs.”
In 2011, for example, a man was hospitalized 13 days after being stabbed by a stranger in a secluded restroom on the mall’s second floor.
The following year another man was strangled and stabbed in an unprovoked attack in that same bathroom.
Then in 2018, Cerezo was killed by a man psychiatrists say was mentally disturbed. Last month, a jury found Kumulipo Sylva guilty of manslaughter.
Witnesses say Sylva followed Cerezo into the bathroom, called him a demon and used a machete to slash his throat.
The suit claims the mall was negligent for not installing surveillance cameras or having a security post near the long hallway leading to the restroom despite “numerous incidents of crime and violence”.
A month after Cerezo’s murder mall officials told Hawaii News Now it was taking steps to beef up security.
But court documents show a woman was allegedly forced into that same restroom at knife point earlier this year by a man who tried to sexually assault her.
“One of the primary objectives in bringing this lawsuit for the family is they have real concerns about the safety of customers, of tenants, of employees at the mall. We really want to bring awareness,” Foster said.
The lawsuit goes on to say that mall officials had been warned Sylva was armed a week prior to the killing.
Court documents revealed a Maui bus driver who regularly drove Sylva to the shopping center had told officials he’d witnessed the 24-year-old swinging a machete at a bus stop.
Queen Kaahumanu Center did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Maui County officials and a spokesperson for the mall’s security firm said they do not comment on pending litigation.
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