A judge granted early release from court supervision and dismissed a 2004 illegal firearms possession charge against accused killer Toby Stangel in 2007 in spite of the fact that Stangel had committed two more crimes in the interim.
The 28-year-old Wahiawa man who allegedly went on a 17-minute freeway shooting spree last week was back in court Monday, accused of killing a mother of 10 and injuring two others. He will be given a preliminary hearing in District Court Wednesday on 15 felony counts, including murder, attempted murder and firearms charges.
Stangel, who is being held in lieu of $5 million bail, made his initial court appearance Monday before District Judge Leslie Hayashi. He faces second-degree murder charges in the death of 54-year-old Tammy Nguyen. He was also charged with seven counts of attempted murder, resisting arrest and various firearms violations.
When he was arrested, a knife in a sheath, a gun clip and bullets were found scattered on the seat and floor of his car.
Wounded during Friday’s shootings were 24-year-old Amie Lou Asuncion of Kalihi and 38-year-old Samson Naupoto of Salt Lake, who are recovering in hospitals. Five others were shot at but were not injured.
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Monday’s court hearing was attended by about a half-dozen members of the North Shore Christian Fellowship led by Bob Prasser, a church elder and a retired assistant chief with the Honolulu Police Department. Friends, including Stangel’s girlfriend, also were there.
Stangel, who made no statement, was represented by public defender Chad Enoki.
Joseph Poloa, who knew Stangel since they were seventh-graders at Waialua Intermediate School, said he was “shocked” when he learned that Stangel allegedly was involved in the highway shooting. The two also attended Waialua High School, but Stangel never graduated and was home-schooled, Prasser said.
Stangel spent the weekend in a Honolulu Police Department cellblock on Beretania Street, unable to post bail.
“It sure seems, judging by the way he looks now in court, that he needs some type of help,” Prasser said. He expressed the hope that Stangel would get “treatment while in custody.”
However, Prasser acknowledged that he was not close to the defendant and does not know whether he had any mental or health problems.
“He’s still family. He needs help,” Prasser said.
He said that Stangel’s parents will spend the week in Murietta, Calif., where they will attend a pastors conference.
Mike Stangel is senior pastor of the North Shore Christian Fellowship congregation.
Stangel’s girlfriend sat in the back of the seventh-floor District Court room, comforted by her mother during the hearing.
AN OAHU GRAND JURY charged Stangel in May 2004 with carrying a firearm without a permit in November 2003.
Stangel pleaded no contest to the charge in July 2004 and asked the judge for an opportunity to clear the charge from his criminal record if he stayed out of trouble. Carrying a firearm without a permit is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Acting Circuit Judge Lono Lee granted Stangel’s request in September 2004 and ordered him to undergo probationlike court supervision for the next five years and contribute $250 into the state fund for crime victims.
The conditions of Stangel’s release included having to work full time or attend educational or vocational training; a prohibition on possessing, using or consuming alcohol, unprescribed or illegal drugs; and complying with all local, state and federal laws.
At the time of his arrest in June 2004, Stangel said he did yard maintenance and was self-employed.
In March 2007 Stangel asked the court to end its supervision and to dismiss the firearm charge early. In support of that request, Deputy Public Defender Timothy Ho submitted a written declaration attesting to Stangel’s eligibility for early release.
He said Stangel paid the $250, completed his community service and had been in compliance with the terms of his release. Stangel was not ordered to perform community service as a condition of his release.
On the date Ho submitted his declaration, Stangel had already been found guilty of two other crimes.
Honolulu police stopped Stangel on March 16, 2005, for speeding. Speeding is a traffic violation, not a crime. However, police also arrested Stangel for drunken driving.
Stangel pleaded guilty to drunken driving and speeding on June 2, 2005. A Honolulu district judge fined Stangel $500 for drunken driving and $250 for speeding and ordered him to pay another $174 in fees and assessments.
Then in January 2006, police arrested Stangel for misdemeanor criminal property damage. A judge found Stangel guilty on April 28, 2006, sentenced him to one year of probation and ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $150 fine.
There is no record of any discussion of Stangel’s convictions for drunken driving and criminal property damage in the minutes of a Sept. 17, 2007, hearing to consider his request for early dismissal. And there is no mention of the convictions in the file.
At the end of the hearing, Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall dismissed the gun possession charge and released Stangel from court supervision.
POLICE SAY LAST week’s shooting spree, which began in Kaimuki just before 1 a.m. Friday and ended in Aiea, appeared to be random, with none of the victims knowing the suspect.
It began at 12:43 a.m. when Stangel got out of his car, walked up to vehicles stopped in an intersection in Kaimuki and opened fire, according to police.
Tammy Nguyen of Palolo was shot to death in her van with her 16-year-old daughter sitting beside her.
Stangel is accused of opening fire again about 10 minutes later on the H-1 freeway between the Houghtailing Street and Likelike Highway exits, shooting Amie Lou Asuncion twice in the shoulder. Samson Naupoto was shot in the leg when he stopped to help her.
Police say a short while later the gunman fired at two police officers who were conducting a traffic stop on the freeway near the Kahuapaani Street overpass. In a police affidavit one of the officers said he saw “Stangel pull up and slow down to a slow roll.”
The officer said he saw the suspect pull out a “silver handgun with his left hand and point the gun in his direction” and fire several shots. No one was hurt.
Stangel was arrested afterward at the Kaamilo Street overpass when he was spotted in his silver BMW, which was stopped on the side of the freeway.
A silver 9 mm semiautomatic handgun was recovered at the scene. Police said it is unregistered.