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Aiea fatal shooting victim was ex-gang member who turned his life around, worked with troubled youth

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSEL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Honolulu police today investigate after a man was shot to death on Eke Place near Kulina Street in Aiea on Saturday night.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSEL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Honolulu police today investigate after a man was shot to death on Eke Place near Kulina Street in Aiea on Saturday night.

  • COURTESY HLTA / 2018
                                Malakai Maumalanga was shot to death in his Aiea home Saturday night. This photo, provided by the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, shows Maumalanga speaking at a visitor public safety conference in 2018.

    COURTESY HLTA / 2018

    Malakai Maumalanga was shot to death in his Aiea home Saturday night. This photo, provided by the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, shows Maumalanga speaking at a visitor public safety conference in 2018.

The 45-year-old man who was killed in a shooting in an Aiea neighborhood late Saturday night was a former teenage gang member who had turned his life around and worked to ensure other high-risk youth didn’t make the same mistakes.

Deborah Spencer-Chun, president and CEO of Adult Friends for Youth, identified the man as Malakai Maumalanga, who served as the nonprofit’s director of redirectional services.

Maumalanga was arrested at 18 in connection with a gang-related drive-by shooting and went to prison.

Adult Friends for Youth, a group that Maumalanga first became acquainted with at age 13, helped mentor him to recovery. The nonprofit, which was seeded in 1985 with a federal grant, runs programs and services aimed at keeping youth in school and out of prison. It works closely with law enforcement and other social service providers.

Maumalanga was such a success story that he was hired by Adult Friends for Youth in 2002 and earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in social work. At the time of his death, he directly reported to Spencer-Chun, his former Adult Friends for Youth counselor.

“We worry about all the kids that we work with Mo was no different,” Spencer-Chun told the Star-Advertiser today. “But then he started to see there was a future, there was life outside of prison. When he went to school and then we knew he would graduate with his bachelor’s and his master’s, I was like ‘Yes.’ Then he started to work with AFY and he said that he didn’t want to work anywhere else that’s where his life was going to be.”

Spencer-Chun said the impact that Maumalanga had on the AFY kids over the 20 years was just phenomenal.

“I’ve been getting calls left and right all the way from Waipahu down to Kaimuki,” she said. “So many people when they meet him for the first time are drawn to him. He had that charisma. I’m just in shock right now.”

Maumalanga was pronounced dead shortly after he was found at his residence with gunshot wounds, according to a Honolulu Emergency Medical Services report.

The crime, which has been classified as a second-degree murder, occurred around 9:45 p.m. on Saturday in an established, multi-generational neighborhood, where street signs remind drivers to slow down because it’s a place where children play.

Witnesses said one, maybe two suspects were involved in the shooting. No further details were available.

Honolulu police officers investigating at the scene on Sunday declined to comment. Several officers were canvassing the neighborhood surrounding the Eke Place residence where the crime occurred.

Spencer-Chun and other members of Adult Friends for Youth took food to show their love to Maumalanga’s family today. Maumalanga was raising three children ages 13, 3, and 2 and had taken in two foster children ages 18 and 17.

Ray Andres, a neighbor who lives around the corner from the home, said he didn’t see the suspects. But he heard a barrage of gun fire about the time of the incident and then heard the victim’s wife calling for help.

“It sounded like a full clip. Then, the wife came out yelling,” Andres said. “Oh my God, the sound. You cannot take out of your head.”

Andres said police and other emergency responders came quickly, but it was too late.

“The ambulance went up and came back down. It was senseless,” he said. “I tried to help.”

Andres said the crime has shook the neighborhood, which is the kind of place where everybody knows each other.

”I don’t know what to feel right now,” he said. “I hope they catch ‘em quick. Everybody is worried for themselves in this place.”

Andres said he has known the victim for about five years and had waved to him just yesterday when he was out and about in the neighborhood.

“He was friendly and I always saw him with his kids,” he said. “He was cool as hell. He worked with at-risk kids.”

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