The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Lee Cataluna column
Apr 08, 2012 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but that mug shot told a singularly succinct story.
A 25-year-old man was arrested in Hilo on Saturday night for allegedly videotaping women in public restrooms. He is accused of doing this twice that night, once at the Ah Fook Chinen auditorium and then, a short while later, at a restroom at a shopping complex in Puainako.
The victims say he stuck his arm under toilet partitions, holding his cellphone while they were using the bathroom. A 24-year-old woman said she was reaching for toilet paper when she saw him. In the second incident, he is accused of trying to capture the unclad image of a 13-year-old girl. A police detective testified in court that the suspect's phone had video of the victims.
In the photo included with the news release of his arrest, Faavae Tuinei's face is a swollen, bloody mess. His left eye is almost completely shut and his face is covered with purple bruises.
Then, there was the line in the news release that set online comments into giddy speculation:
"A relative of the victim detained Tuinei until South Hilo patrol officers arrived and arrested him."
"I hope wuz da girl's mother!"
"That's Hilo justice!"
And many comments started with the phrase:
"If that was my daughter ..."
In a time when predators stalk via the anonymity of the Internet and crimes against children are so rampant that there are cable channels devoted to unsolved atrocities, someone actually got his hands on a suspected perpetrator. He had face-to-face time with the guy before police arrived. To some, that is the ultimate heroic fantasy: the huntsman cornering the big bad wolf in the forest.
Later in the week came word that the 25-year-old man responsible for catching the suspected predator may be facing charges of third-degree assault and that the case has been referred to the county prosecutor's office for investigation.
"The message would be: In spite of what emotions take over, you can't take the law into your own hands," Hilo police Lt. Greg Esteban told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.
That news was met largely by incredulity.
"Third-degree assault? How about Third Degree your fault for perving on a kid," was one response.
"Criminals are better protected than victims," another wrote.
"The guy deserves an award from the police, not an arrest. He dispensed more justice to the criminal than the courts ever will."
This case will be interesting to follow to see where a judge draws the line between vigilantism and Hilo-style heroism. After all, the guy didn't show up at the suspect's house three days later and beat him to a pulp. He just detained him at the scene until the cops showed up. Looks like he detained him pretty good.
Reach Lee Cataluna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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