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Hearing set for alleged HPM thief

A 40-year-old Hilo man who was on court-supervised release without monetary bail for auto theft is back behind bars after allegedly stealing more than $26,000 worth of power tools from HPM Building Supply in Hilo, capping what police describe as a “month-long crime spree.”

Nathan Kalani Niihau is charged with burglary, two each of counts of first-degree theft and first-degree property damage, plus auto theft and resisting an order to stop.

The burglary and property damage charges are Class B felonies because they occurred during the emergency declared due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Niihau pleaded not guilty to all charges on Friday.

Hilo District Judge Kanani Laubach denied a defense request to free Niihau again without monetary bail, confirmed his bail amount at $136,000, and ordered him to return for a preliminary hearing at 2:30 p.m. today.

According to court documents filed by police, HPM’s general manager was notified by its alarm company at about 10:42 p.m. July 4 there was motion detected in the company’s tool cage inside the enclosed, fenced property.

Upon arrival at the store, the manager saw packages of new tools in a truck bed and witnessed a man get into the truck — a 2013 Nissan Frontier belonging to HPM — start it up, and break through the cage.

The truck had a GPS device, and officers plotted it traveling Hilo-bound on Daniel K. Inouye Highway at about 7 p.m. July 6, documents state.

An officer confirmed the truck — which had a bed full of Dewalt power tools — was the stolen vehicle, and tried to pull it over at the corner of Puainako and Komohana streets. At that point, the driver ran a red light and started a high-speed chase, reaching speeds between 75 mph and 80 mph in a 45 mph zone. The chase was terminated when the truck turned right onto Waianuenue Avenue, police said.

The truck was tracked by GPS to Kaiwiki Homestead Road in Honomu a short time later. It was pulled over, and Niihau was confirmed as the driver, documents state.

The value of the truck, which was damaged, was appraised at $21,000, the tools at $26,744.50, and the damage to the HPM gate at $3,100, documents state.

Niihau was previously released from custody after having been arrested on June 30 in an allegedly stolen Jeep and charged with auto theft, first-degree theft, third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, theft of a credit card, and unauthorized possession of confidential personal information.

Police say he’s also been linked to a June 1 burglary of the county’s Adult Disability Resource Center in Hilo. That case has been routed to prosecutors, police said.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiit
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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