By Houston Mitchell
6:41 AM PST, January 17, 2013
As the odd story of Manti Te'o and his fake girlfriend continues to develop, the citizens of Te'o's hometown are rallying behind the Notre Dame star.
Members of the community of Laie, Hawaii, said they were dumbfounded when they heard that Te'o's girlfriend, who supposedly died of leukemia last year, didn't actually exist. Te'o claims to be one of the victims of the hoax, and most of the people in Laie believe him.
“I just don't see something like that being made up from him or having any part of that because they're not those kind of people,” Lokelani Kaiahuashe told the Associated Press. “Everybody's kind of like, 'What is going on?' "
Makala Paakaula, a school administrator, says Te'o is a hero and role model to many children in Laie and nearby small towns like Haaula, Kaaawa and Kahuku. She says students in Haaula often wear Notre Dame jerseys with his No. 5 on them.
“It's amazing how he brought together the whole school to become one ohana, one family, where they all belonged, where they all had a purpose,” Paakaula said.
Many residents expressed anger toward whoever was behind the entire affair.
“If he got hoaxed, that's not his fault — shame on them,” Paakaula said, “because he has a very trusting, open heart.”
Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times