7 Killed in Honolulu; Co-Worker Surrenders

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A copier repairman walked into a Xerox office here Tuesday morning and calmly trained a 9-millimeter handgun on his co-workers, firing and killing seven men. The suspected gunman then fled, surrendering only after five hours of strained negotiations with police.

Police said Byran Uyesugi, 40, entered the Xerox engineering center just after 8 a.m., headed to the second floor and picked out two men in an office, shooting them at close range. He then moved to a conference room, where he killed five other employees, police said. Witnesses reported hearing popping sounds, then someone yelling, "Run!"

According to those in the building, the gunman appeared to carefully target the victims, who were gathering for a team meeting of fellow technicians. No one else was wounded.

The victims were identified by KHON-TV as Jason Balatico, 33; Mel Lee, 58; Ford Kanehira, 41; Ron Kataoka, 50; Ron Kawamae, 54; Peter Mark, 46; and John Sakamoto, 36.

Police said they found 20 9-millimeter shell casings at the shooting scene.

The suspect, booked for investigation of first-degree murder, was described as a quiet, 15-year company veteran. Though his motive wasn't clear, his father said he had sought anger management counseling in recent years after an altercation at work.

Police said Uyesugi, a member of his high school shooting team, had 18 weapons registered in his name. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported that he was turned down for a firearms permit in 1994 after he was arrested for alleged criminal property damage at work.

The killings were the latest in a numbing series of multiple shootings that have erupted at offices, schools and churches around the country. That the shootings occurred in Hawaii, which tends to think it is immune from many of the mainland's social ills, was a rude reminder that even here violence can find a foothold.

"It's a shock for all of us," Mayor Jeremy Harris said. "We have such a safe community with almost no violent crime. To have someone snap like this and murder seven people is just absolutely appalling." Harris said there were 17 homicides in this city of 365,000 people last year, and there were only seven elsewhere in the state.

Called Hawaii's Worst Mass Shooting

Rush hour had just begun when police cordoned off streets in the area of light industrial buildings and then deployed SWAT teams. Residents of the city that boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the nation thus confronted what authorities called the worst mass shooting in state history.

A massive manhunt was mounted on the city's palm-lined streets after Uyesugi sped away from the building, a 33,000-square-foot warehouse near the city's waterfront. By late morning police had located Uyesugi's stolen company van and surrounded it. The suspect had fled to the Koolau Forest Reserve in Makiki Heights, a lush mountainous rain forest overlooking the city.

Police feared Uyesugi might be heavily armed. Officers escorted two groups of children on a school excursion out of the area and redirected hikers away from the scene.

Uyesugi sat in the vehicle while authorities attempted to negotiate with him using megaphones. While Uyesugi remained uncommunicative, police brought to the scene his brother, Dennis, who had volunteered to assist in the negotiations.

Michael Carvalho, acting chief of police, said Uyesugi accepted a cell phone tossed to him by police and gave himself up at 2:50 p.m. The chunky figure in a blue-and-white Hawaiian shirt emerged from the van with his hands raised, then fell to the ground. Carvalho said a handgun was recovered from the vehicle.

Inside the modest home that Uyesugi shared with his father and older brother, police found an arsenal of weapons that was locked in a safe. According to Sgt. Mark Victor, the cache included revolvers, semiautomatic pistols, shotguns and other rifles.

The suspect's father, Hiroyuki Uyesugi, later emerged from the home with his hands jammed in his pants pockets and shrugged, telling a reporter, "What can I say? I can't say anything."

Asked if he planned to join in the effort to bring his son in, the elderly man looked stricken and said, "I'm going to bring him another gun so he can shoot himself."

He said his son had sought anger management counseling a few years ago after he kicked an elevator door at work but had reported no other problems. Asked whether Uyesugi had a history of problems at work, a company spokesman said his work record was still being examined.

"Like all of us at Xerox, you undoubtedly have the question, 'Why? How could this have happened?' " Xerox Hawaii General Manager Glenn Sexton said.

"Only time and the work of [the Honolulu Police Department] will determine that. Perhaps we'll never know."

Uyesugi joined Xerox in 1984 and worked as a customer service engineer, servicing office machines.

Some neighbors described him as reclusive. Loraine Howell has lived for 54 years in the sedate Laimi neighborhood nestled in the foothills of the same mountains where Uyesugi fled after the shootings.

Howell said Uyesugi lived quietly with his brother and father, whom Howell described as a "good man." The family home, on Easy Street, was well kept except for a rusted-out Ford Mustang parked on the front lawn. Laundry flapped on a clothesline in the backyard, near tanks of goldfish.

According to Dennis Hokama, principal of Roosevelt High School, Uyesugi graduated in 1977, and his only extracurricular activity was being a member of the school's shooting team. Hokama said the interscholastic team competed using air rifles and small-bore pistols.

David J. Yuen, a classmate at Roosevelt, said he remembered Uyesugi as quiet and not part of the school's in-crowd. "I know who he was, but I didn't know him," Yuen said.

The drama spanned the city. Near the busy working harbor a few miles from the tourist district of Waikiki, the two-story brick Xerox building was surrounded by police and gaped at by stunned locals.

Earl W. Simao was across the street having his usual morning coffee. He glanced into the Xerox parking lot and saw a man dressed in casual clothes get into a green company van and drive off. The man was Uyesugi.

"He looked perfectly calm," Simao said, shaking his head. "I'm still trying to sort it through."

When the action moved north to the base of Tantalus Mountain, residents and gawkers congregated behind police lines.

Sense of Isolation Lost

Shawn Pagay, 25, a self-employed landscaper, echoed the stunned reaction of islanders. "You'd think this might happen on the mainland, but not Hawaii," he said. "This island is so small and community-based. There's still a sense of ohana." Ohana is the Hawaiian word for "family."

"I was shocked," said Jennifer Davis, a 27-year-old nanny who lives near where Uyesugi held police at bay. "Hawaii always seems to have been so isolated from what happens on the mainland, like the Columbine massacre or any of the crazy people who commit mass murder. I've always felt like I'm glad I'm away from that."

Hawaii has one of the nation's strictest gun laws. In order to obtain a firearms permit, proof must be provided that the buyer has passed a firearms safety course.

There is also a 14-day waiting period and a background check.

Essoyan reported from Honolulu and Cart from Denver. Times researcher Belen Rodriguez contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
74°