Hotel Security Guard Dies 2 Years After Beating

September 29, 2020, 12:46 PM HST (Updated September 29, 2020, 1:18 PM)
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John Kanui (PC: Go Fund Me page)

A hotel security guard brutally beaten by three people in the parking lot of a Kona hotel just over two years ago has died.

John Kanui, 65, was receiving medical treatment on the mainland for a closed traumatic brain injury and a broken neck that resulted in paralysis after he was assaulted while on shift at Kona Seaside Hotel on Sept. 17, 2018.

On a Facebook post, Kanui’s family confirmed his passing on Monday. His family is in the process of arranging to get him home to Hawai‘i.

“I knew this day would come, I tried to prepare but I was still shocked and overwhelmed with sadness when the nurses contacted me,” the post stated. “The nurses were by his side in his last moments and he went peacefully.”

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Kanui’s daughter, Jennifer Farrell, told Big Island Now on Tuesday, how grateful their family was to everyone who offered prayers and kind words of support from the beginning.

“My Dad fought so hard to heal and there were moments of happiness, but he was ready to leave,” Farrell said. “I’m happy he is whole again and no longer bound by the events that took place two years ago. His faith never wavered and was with him in his final breaths.”

Kanui’s attackers, Wesley Samoa, Natisha Tautalatasi and Lama Lauvao were convicted for the assault in June 2019 and were sentenced in three months later. Samoa and Tautalatasi were found guilty of second-degree attempted murder and Lauvao was convicted of first-degree assault.

The beating incident two years ago occurred just after midnight. Kanui was on shift at Kona Seaside Hotel when he responded to a noise complaint. He ultimately came into contact with Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lauvao in the parking lot.

A verbal altercation occurred, which suddenly turned violent. Hotel video surveillance played in 3rd Circuit Court showed the three attackers alternated punching and kicking the 63-year-old security guard, even after it appeared he was unconscious.

Deputy Prosecutor Sheri Lawson prosecuted the case. She said she found out about Kanui’s death this morning.

“This case has always made me sad because it was vicious and senseless,” Lawson said. “All he (Kanui) did was go to work. That’s the senseless thing.”

While it’s upsetting, Lawson said she’s glad they were able to do something to try and get justice for Kanui.

Samoa and Tautalatasi were sentenced to life in prison. Recently, the Hawai‘i Paroling Authority determined Tautalatasi would serve a minimum of 35 years in prison, Samoa 30 years and Lauvao 10 years.

With news of Kanui’s death, the prosecutor’s office will not file additional murder charges against the three attackers.

At the time Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lauvao were charged, Lawson said, prosecutors had to decide whether to wait to see if Kanui would die from his injuries right away to charge the three with murder. Ultimately, the prosecutor’s office filed attempted murder charges because the evidence supported that at the time.

“Due to the nature of Mr. Kanui’s injuries, we decided to go forward with charging even though death had not yet occurred,” Lawson explained. “Also, it would not have been justice for Mr. Kanui or the community to wait to charge the defendants — so we didn’t.”

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.

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