Just hours after the government released photographs of Wheeler Army Airfield soldier Ikaika Erik Kang kissing the Islamic State flag and pledging his allegiance, Kang agreed today to remain in custody with no opportunity for release as he is being prosecuted for providing support to terrorists.
The FBI arrested Sgt. 1st Class Kang, 34, an Army air traffic controller, over the weekend following a yearlong undercover investigation. He was ordered held without bail in federal court in Honolulu today.
The U.S. Attorney released pictures of Kang with the Islamic State flag and what it says are Kang providing weapons and fighting techniques to an undercover agent posing as an ISIS fighter in court papers asking Kang’s continued detention.
Kang’s court-appointed lawyer Birney Bervar said he had told federal prosecutors that Kang was going to agree to remain in custody before they released the photographs. Bervar said he will be asking for a mental health evaluation of his client.
Bervar said that Kang’s 2011 Afghanistan deployment seems to be a “turning point” for his mental state. He told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Monday that his client may be suffering from service-related mental health issues which the government knew about but did not treat.
In their motion asking that Kang be held without bail, prosecutors said, “Kang’s military training, weapons abilities and personal combat skills, coupled with his strong stated desire to kill people in the name of Islamic State, makes him one of the more dangerous criminal defendants to have been charged in this judicial district.”
According to court documents, Kang met with undercover agents he thought were from the Islamic State group at a home in Honolulu, where he pledged allegiance to the group and kissed an Islamic State flag.
Kang, who grew up in Waimanalo and graduated from Kaiser High in 2001, was arrested immediately “to remove the possibility that he would act on his impulse to kill people in the name of Islamic State,” prosecutors wrote.
The Associated Press quoted Kang’s former Army bunkmate Dustin Lyles as saying that Kang believed the moon landing was faked, questioned the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and thought the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were an inside job coordinated by the U.S. government.
Lyles, a medically retired soldier, bunked with Kang for a month in 2013 during military training, and were friends for several years before Lyles left the Army and the two lost touch, according to the Associated Press.
Lyles said Kang’s arrest came as a shock and that he never heard Kang express support for the enemy. They shared sleeping quarters, ate together and practiced mixed martial arts. “If I had known that then … I wouldn’t even have talked to him after that,” Lyles said.
Lyles said he and Kang debated about conspiracies, including that 9/11 was staged by the U.S. to spark wars in the Middle East.
Kang aspired to become a pro MMA fighter, Lyles said.
Kang, who was stationed at Schofield Barracks at the time of his arrest, completed a course to become a tactical combat instructor to soldiers, according to an FBI complaint filed in court.
With help from a Veterans Administration loan, Kang purchased a condo in May 2016 in Royal Kunia on Oahu, according to property records.