There was a tense moment Thursday between state Rep. Tom Brower and the mother of the 14-year-old boy who Brower said initiated the mob attack against him last month at a Kakaako homeless encampment.
After Brower told reporters that he plans to pursue criminal charges against at least one of the two cousins who allegedly started the attack June 29, he agreed to speak to Rose Pu‘u at the same street corner of Ohe and Olomehani streets where the attack began.
Mother of one of the boys accused of attaking state Rep. Tom Brower
Pu‘u, who is also the aunt of the 17-year-old boy who allegedly beat Brower, asked the lawmaker whether he prompted the assault by refusing the boys’ request to stop taking pictures of them as they have alleged.
Brower repeated his position that he never took pictures of anyone and was attacked without warning by Pu‘u’s son, who rode up to him on a skateboard from a block away.
Pu‘u at first challenged Brower’s account that he did nothing to provoke the beating that ended with Brower running to the front of the nearby Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center, where he was then knocked to the ground and beaten by a mob.
Pu‘u insisted that Brower had mistaken her son for someone else. She later said the two cousins were “covering up” for someone older when they went on television the night of the attack and admitted being involved.
Pu‘u then broke down in tears and said it was her fault that her four sons ended up homeless on Ohe Street, and twice apologized to Brower (D, Waikiki-Ala Moana-Kakaako).
“I’m sorry my son done do this,” Pu‘u said. “He’s still a kid. … I don’t want my son to go down or my nephew go down for nothing they never do. … I’m trying to get my kids off the street, but I made a big mistake.”
She told Brower she had “no education, no nothing. … I cannot get off the street if I have to go through all this.”
Brower remained calm during the 15-minute exchange and said he appreciated Pu‘u’s apologies.
But he insisted, “I have to press charges. … Rose, I don’t want to have to do this. I want to put this all behind us … and now is the time to start.”
Pu‘u said her 14-year-old son, along with the oldest of her four boys, is now living with their grandmother on Oahu.
Brower urged the two cousins to “do the right thing” and identify the others in the attack that left Brower with a laceration near his right eye, facial swelling, bruised ribs and scrapes on his leg and left hand.
On Thursday Brower still had a cut over his eye and wounds to his hand.
Brower told reporters that he believes police have enough evidence to charge at least one of the teens after they went on camera on Hawaii News Now the night of the attack and admitted their role.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser is not identifying the boys because they are minors. They previously told the Star-Advertiser that Brower refused to stop taking pictures of them and laughed when they asked him to delete the pictures, which Brower denies.
The 17-year-old boy — who was living under a tarp on Ohe Street with his pregnant girlfriend — previously told the Star-Advertiser that his younger cousin deleted all of the pictures and videos on Brower’s camera, which they later turned over to an investigator from the state attorney general’s office.
Brower maintains that the photos and videos he shot June 29 would have corroborated his version of the attack.
The assault brought renewed attention to the encampment, where Honolulu police and state sheriff’s deputies have seen an increase in reported assaults over the last several months.
Brower said he has visited the encampment “hundreds of times” over the years and walked over to Kakaako from the state Capitol on Thursday. It was his first visit since the attack.
As music blared from one of the tarp-covered, wooden structures nearby and gas-powered generators sputtered in the background, Brower said the number of tents has only increased since June 29.
Brower had gone to the encampment in response to a June 24 email to lawmakers and the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which oversees Kakaako.
In her email, Loretta Yajima, chairwoman of the Children’s Discovery Center’s board of directors, attached a surveillance video recording in which a man defecates at one of the center’s entrances. He then stands up and urinates on his feces, then squats back down to defecate some more.
After he leaves, another man appears in the video and attempts to break into the building. He seems to study the pile of feces before defecating himself.
Yajima wrote in her June email, “For a while, things got a little better with the help of HPD, but now that the encampments have expanded and new people have moved in, things are getting bad again.”