Friends, strangers rally to aid of Kapolei homeless man known for inspirational signs
KAPOLEI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Steve Hedenberg insists the swelling and bruising around his right eye, fractured nose, and injured right arm are the result of a face-first fall.
"Honest folks. Honest to God. Nobody assaulted me," he said. "I took some pills that were too strong and I fell down."
Someone snapped a photo of Hedenberg, bloody and unconscious, and put it on social media.
Early Thursday morning, he was found outside a Kapolei convenience store.
"One of our co-workers saw him lying on the ground. He was passed out, and then they called the police and the ambulance," Char Mahoe-Manibusan said.
Hedenberg's homeless. He's known in Kapolei as the smiling sign waver who encourages drivers with handwritten messages to say "Smile" and "Be the Light."
Friends believe his injuries aren't accidental.
"If he went fall, that was one bad fall. But it look like somebody went beat him up," Stephen Rodrigues said.
"It looks like he got mob attacked," Barb Smallwood said.
Smallwood is also homeless.
She and Rodrigues said Hedenberg has been attacked on the street in the past, and other homeless in Kapolei have also been assaulted by strangers.
"When you're homeless and alone and older and have health problems it is easier to get assaulted and picked on," she said.
Hedenberg, 58, is a Navy veteran. He has been homeless for years.
On Friday, friends and strangers who saw the bloody picture and the nearly 400 Facebook comments that accompanied it brought him food and other things.
"I know a lot of people care about me. But I've never been in this situation before, so that makes me surprised," he said.
Honolulu police want to know what happened to Hedenberg. As of now, HPD is treating it as an assault investigation.
Anyone with information is being asked to call CrimeStoppers at 955-8300.
"I know him," Rodrigues said. "He's one of those guys that he's not going to say nothing."
Hedenberg agreed to talk to Hawaii News Now, he said, to quiet the internet chatter that claims he was attacked.
"It looks worse than it feels, though. My wrist hurts the most," he said.
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