Suspect in Honoka‘a shooting was on supervised release
May 19, 2023, 4:00 AM HST
* Updated May 19, 6:12 AM
A 29-year-old from Honoka‘a who was arrested earlier this week for shooting a man in the neck and head was on supervised release for felony charges, awaiting admittance to a drug treatment program on O‘ahu.
Keola Whitehead-Shibata was officially charged Thursday afternoon with second-degree attempted murder, ownership or possession prohibited, and carrying a firearm in the commission of a separate felony. He slated to appear in District Court for an initial appearance today. Bail was set for over $1 million.
In December, he pleaded no contest to class C felony offenses for stealing a car and third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug. He already was on probation after pleading no-contest to charges of identity theft and forgery in 2017.
While 3rd Circuit Court Judge Peter K. Kubota had not yet sentenced him for stealing a car and a drug offense, Whitehead-Shibata was granted supervised release with the understanding that he be admitted to Sand Island Treatment Center on O‘ahu as soon as a bed was available.
According to court minutes in February, Whitehead-Shibata had been living in his car. After multiple attempts were made to contact him, Kubota ultimately revoked the supervised release.
And on Feb. 28, after he failed to appear in court for a sentencing hearing, a $5,000 bench warrant was issued against him.
But he was able to elude police until Tuesday, when he was arrested for shooting a 39-year-old at the Salvation Army Honokaʻa Corps on Rickard Place.
The victim at the Salvation Army Honokaʻa Corps campus has been identified by a Salvation Army official as Arthur Franklin.
Envoy Gary Todd, Ministry Leader for The Salvation Army Honokaʻa Corps, told West Hawaiʻi Today the victim was one of the homeless to whom they provide services.
For months, judges have been granting defendants supervised release because of the overcrowding at Hawai‘i Community Correctional Center in Hilo. 3rd Circuit Court Head Judge Robert D.S. Kim toured the jail in January and told news organization Civil Beat the conditions were atrocious.
Kim stated he encouraged all judges to to be judicious in who they send to jail.
“Our office shares in the public’s frustrations that judges regularly grant offenders’ requests for release on account of conditions at HCCC,” Hawai‘i County Prosecuting Attorney Kelden Waltjen said. “Prioritizing the construction of new and updated correctional facilities in both East and West Hawai‘i that can accommodate in-house treatment and programming for substance abuse, mental health, social services and reintegration assistance is essential to addressing criminal justice system concerns on Hawai‘i Island.
“Jeopardizing public safety concerns by prematurely releasing offenders without proper treatment, social services and reintegration assistance is misguided and dangerous.”
Hawai‘i police officers initially responded to Tuesday’s shooting at around 6 p.m. When they arrived they found the victim conscious and being tended to by a bystander.
He was immediately transported by ambulance to the North Hawai’i Community Hospital in Waimea, and later flown to the Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, where he is in critical condition.
Todd told West Hawaiʻi Today that Whitehead-Shibata came to the Salvation Army campus to receive services when the argument occurred with the victim.
“We were saddened by the shooting on our campus and are praying for all of those involved. Additionally, we are grateful for the quick actions of a volunteer nurse who was present and the responding EMS team,” Todd said in a statement. “Any further information about what happened can be requested from the Hawaiʻi Police Department.”
A witness at the scene reported that he and Franklin were hanging out in the area on Rickard Place when Whitehead-Shibata showed up. A short time later, Whitehead-Shibata got upset with the Franklin, pulled out a handgun and shot at him multiple times prior to fleeing the area on foot, still in possession of the gun.
Officers found Whitehead-Shibata the next morning in a wooded area off Lehua Street in Honoka‘a.