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1 of 2 accused in Pohoiki shooting pleads not guilty

Updated: 
August 16, 2017 - 12:05am

HILO — A 36-year-old Pahoa man accused of the nonfatal shootings of two Mountain View men during a gun battle July 30 at Isaac Hale Beach Park in Pohoiki can be seen in a video firing a black handgun at least seven times, according to court documents filed by police.

In a courtroom mostly filled by friends and family, Tyson Keola Lewi pleaded not guilty Tuesday to attempted first-degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a separate felony plus two counts each of of attempted second-degree murder and first-degree property damage. Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura ordered Lewi to appear for trial at 9 a.m. Dec. 4.

Lewi, who was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 24 in Hilo District Court, was indicted Aug. 9 by a Hilo grand jury, which moved the case to the higher court and rendered the preliminary hearing unnecessary.

Documents filed in district court say a video shows Lewi firing a black handgun at least seven times, striking 27-year-old Rodney Wilbur Jr. twice in his upper chest while Wilbur was sitting in the driver’s seat of his white 1996 Toyota pickup, and also hitting 25-year-old Austin Aiwohi in the buttock. Lewi is also accused of damaging Wilbur Jr.’s pickup and the white 2006 Dodge Ram pickup of Wilbur’s father, 49-year-old Rodney Wilbur Sr., with gunfire and placing Wilbur Sr., whom documents say was driving at the time, and other occupants of his truck in danger of death or bodily injury.

The attempted first-degree murder charge, which carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole upon conviction, is because there is more than one alleged victim. Conviction of attempted second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence with the possibility of parole.

Lewi, who turned himself in to police the day after the shooting, has been in custody since, unable to post $550,000 bail. The bail amount was maintained in a bench warrant issued with the indictment.

Aiwohi and Wilbur Jr. were taken to Hilo Medical Center for treatment of their injuries. Both have since been released.

Also facing charges in connection with the armed affray is Wilbur Sr., who is accused of shooting 35-year-old Gerard Kawelo, of Pahoa, in the head. Wilbur Sr. is charged with attempted second-degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a separate felony, prohibited possession of a firearm and illegally carrying a pistol.

At last report, Kawelo remained hospitalized at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu in critical condition.

Wilbur, who was arrested near the lower Puna park shortly after the shootout, was released from custody after posting $275,000 bail. He has a scheduled date in Hilo District Court on Sept. 7, but could be indicted before then.

If that occurs, Wilbur’s case also will be moved to Circuit Court for arraignment, plea and trial setting.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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