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Fight near Institute of Human Services shelter leads to fatal stabbing of homeless man

A fight near the Institute of Human Services’ Iwilei facility ended in the fatal stabbing of a 27-year-old homeless man late Friday night, according to Honolulu police, who have opened a second-degree murder investigation.

The stabbing occurred during a fight between two homeless men just after 11:30 p.m., within about a block of the IHS Sumner Men’s Shelter.

The victim, identified by IHS as 27-year-old Bryson Bothelho-Kalima, was stabbed multiple times with a sharp object, according to a report by the Honolulu Police Department.

Police did not say exactly what weapon was used.

The Honolulu Emergency Medical Services said Bothelho-Kalima was stabbed in the chest, and paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.

The 42-year-old suspect ran away after the stabbing, but responding officers located and arrested him several blocks away for suspicion of second-degree murder and third-degree promoting dangerous drugs.

Bothelho-Kalima and the suspect were acquaintances and guests at the men’s shelter, according to a statement from IHS.

“We are heartbroken by the senseless killing of our shelter guest, Bryson Bothelho-Kalima,” an IHS statement said. “Our prayers go out to his family and friends for his untimely passing. … This tragedy underscores the challenges we are seeing with increased violence in our homeless community.”

The suspect, who is from the mainland, flew to Hawaii around Christmas after being released from prison, IHS said. With no place to stay, he came to the agency for shelter, but he was asked to leave weeks ago because he repeatedly threatened others and had substance abuse issues, IHS officials said.

The agency’s shelters are “low barrier,” which makes entry without any form of identification possible, but being unable to verify who’s in the shelters could compromise the safety of others.

“These cases underscore the difficulty of operating a low-barrier emergency shelter, as well as the challenge of accepting guests from the mainland whose histories are largely unknown to us,” IHS said in its statement.

IHS Executive Director Connie Mitchell said she’s exploring ways to get better access to background information and criminal records for people who are seeking the agency’s services. It would help especially with those who are flying to Hawaii, which she noted is a place where people might come to try to escape their problems.

“I think that Hawaii has always been a place where people who have something to hide have wanted to come to put things behind them or to put space behind them,” Mitchell said.

She added that having more information on people coming to Hawaii and using IHS services could help to reduce violence in the homeless community, which may be on the rise because of multiple stressors, including those stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and various economic issues.

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