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Inmate who escaped via court ceiling recaptured

By Nelson Daranciang


State sheriff deputies recaptured a fugitive Thursday, less than 24 hours after the inmate escaped from the Circuit Court building on Punchbowl Street.

The Sheriff Division's Fugitive Team apprehended Darius Puni-Mau outside the Pali Safeway store at about 10 a.m. without incident.

Courthouse deputies discovered Puni-Mau missing at about noon Wednesday.

The Sheriff Division's warrant and criminal investigative follow-up sections used intelligence about Puni-Mau's associates and hangouts to track him down, said Shawn Tsuha, state sheriff.

"We actually had a break in the sense that somebody had said that a particular vehicle was seen," he said. "We were able to narrow that vehicle down."

Puni-Mau was not in the vehicle, and it wasn't at Safeway when sheriff deputies captured him, Tsuha said.

Based on the evidence and investigation of the escape, Tsuha said officials are pretty sure Puni-Mau entered the courthouse's third-floor ceiling above the interview room where inmates talk to their lawyers before and after court hearings, crawled in the ceiling about 40 feet, dropped down into a utility closet and walked out a nearby exit.

They found bits of broken ceiling tile and a slipper in the room where they believe Puni-Mau entered the ceiling. They found the second slipper in the ceiling and footprints where they think he dropped down and walked out.

Tsuha said there were about a dozen inmates in the interview room when deputies discovered that Puni-Mau wasn't there. A large glass window allows the desk sergeant to see into the interview room.

Standard operating procedures do not require the presence of a deputy in the room. However, one is often assigned there, Tsuha said.

But on Wednesday there was a higher-than-normal number of inmates at court, leaving the interview room without a deputy. And with many inmates going in and out of the interview room at a time, Puni-Mau was able to climb into the ceiling unnoticed, he said.

From the beginning, the physical evidence suggested only one inmate had crawled into the ceiling. However, because a state judge had ordered another inmate released from custody at court that day, Tsuha said the headcount suggested two missing inmates. It wasn't until the last transport van — which was late due to the traffic backup because of a garbage truck crashing into an H-1 medial barrier — returned to Oahu Community Correctional Center on Wednesday night that prison officials were sure that there was only one missing inmate: Puni-Mau.

Tsuha said his division is doing a review of what happened. The division is also consulting with the state Judiciary, which owns and operates the building, on ways of better securing the interview room. The Judiciary took contractors into the courthouse Thursday to make assessments of the work needed to secure the cellblock interview room, Judiciary spokes­woman Marsha Kita­gawa said.

A state judge sentenced Puni-Mau in February to probation for felony criminal property damage and misdemeanor abuse of a family or household member. He was taken into custody in June for entering a dwelling without permission and committing two more counts of abuse of a family and household member. He was supposed to be sentenced for the new charges Tuesday, but he failed to return from a pass on Oct. 17 to get a drug abuse assessment.

Puni-Mau was recaptured later Tuesday, and on Wednesday was supposed to face a judge about his earlier probation violation.

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ejkorvette wrote:
O.k. he's back in the cell now. If his sentence isn't too harsh, and it won't be, the Sheriff's office should hire him part time to test out their security procedures and holding cells. As a consultant. Who knows, a good job could lead to fixing his anger issues, delinquency tendicies, and start him on a respectful career path. Stranger things have happened. Remember the movie Catch Me If You Can?
on November 2,2012 | 01:57AM
Bdpapa wrote:
This is kinda funny. He craftily escapes thru an air vent but can't get out of downtown Honolulu.
on November 2,2012 | 05:46AM
allie wrote:
Sheriff office is not impressive in any way. Circus
on November 2,2012 | 06:29AM
Sunny wrote:
I guess there was no way to communicate with the transport van, everyone has a cell phone these days!
on November 2,2012 | 12:22PM
soundofreason wrote:
"Puni-Mau was apprehended Thursday morning at the Pali Safeway. ">>> I don't always go grocery shopping when I break out of jail - but when I do..............
on November 2,2012 | 06:44AM
irenefernie wrote:
Talk about stupid! Pali safeway is one block away from the court house and its a area that is crawling with police. Most crimminal know not to be anywhere near down town when youre running from the law.
on November 2,2012 | 07:37AM
Publicbraddah wrote:
As a criminal, he's hit his ceiling.
on November 2,2012 | 08:01AM
soundofreason wrote:
Maybe he should have "duct"
on November 2,2012 | 08:11AM
Publicbraddah wrote:
Goes without saying but I'm glad you did.
on November 2,2012 | 09:12AM
RichardCory wrote:
Alright, come on, there's no need to vent.
on November 2,2012 | 09:19AM
kennie1933 wrote:
on November 2,2012 | 08:22AM
Macadamiamac wrote:
Well, poor 'ting. Mebbe da juge feel sorry fo' da bugga. Afta all he only abuse his family, not one tourist. Nex time mebbe he need mo time fo tink about his akshons, spen some time in da jail.
on November 2,2012 | 09:26AM
Acck wrote:
Mahalo to the sheriffs that took less than24 hours to apprehend the escapee. Hope the public realizes the importance of whar sheriffs do everyday.
on November 2,2012 | 10:17AM
BigOpu wrote:
Acck, totally agree with you on their thankless efforts...with that said, it would've never happened if the Sheriff who supposed to be watching the group didn't sleep at the wheel. It was kind of embarassing. The Department accepted all responsibility and I commend them for that.
on November 2,2012 | 10:43AM
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