HONOLULU (KHON2) — A Waikiki incident that led to a physical altercation in a hotel lobby will not be prosecuted, leaving an elderly victim seeking justice.
The incident began as a spat between a driver and a pedestrian but escalated into a dispute. It resulted in a bystander being assaulted, and prosecutors declined charges. A video of the incident was recorded and it sheds light on the nuances involved in what gets taken to court and what gets dropped.
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Waikiki resident Joel Bean was trying to cross the crosswalk fronting the Waikiki Grand Hotel on Kapahulu Avenue with his grandkids in tow in the wagon on Sunday, Oct. 3.
“I’m in the crosswalk almost across to where the yellow line is. I see him, and I know he’s not going to stop. So, I slow down,” Bean recalled, regarding a driver makai-bound on Kapahulu Avenue. “He completely stopped in the crosswalk; so I tap the back of this car as I’m going out of the crosswalk to get up the ramp. I double-tapped it with the back of my palm, just tap, tap.”
KHON2 asked if there was any damage to the car?
“Absolutely not,” Bean said. “Of course not.”
However, Bean’s tapping did not sit well with the driver — who had his wife and kids in the car — and the pair exchanged words.
Rolf Nordahl, a 76-year-old business tenant in the building, had seen the dispute start outside as he was coming back from a walk with his dog.
“He pointed to Joel and said ‘Joel damaged my car.’ I saw that the front desk clerk was calling police when I walked by, and I said, ‘Well, you’re calling the police. Why don’t you go out to your car and meet the police?’ And, no, he wants to stay there,” Nordahl explained.
The dispute soon added a fourth player as the driver’s wife entered the building’s lobby.
“I heard someone shouting in my ear, and I turned and asked her to calm down. And that didn’t help, so I very loudly said, ‘Shut up,’ at which point he pushed me into the counter over there. As I crumpled to the floor, I heard him shout, ‘He yelled at my wife.'”Rolf Nordahl, a 76-year-old business tenant in the building
Nordahl was taken away in an ambulance, and the man who pushed him was arrested for second-degree assault. He was then released without charges the next day, according to HPD.
The Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office said they are declining prosecution for the man who pushed Nordahl. Here is their explanation:
“A prosecutor has an ethical duty to charge offenses only if all elements to the offense(s) can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” explained First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Brady. “Here, that included proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that (the suspect) was not reasonable in his use of force for the protection of other persons…”
“The evidence included, but was not limited to, the hotel video which corroborated a statement from an independent witness who stated that (the suspect) was defending his wife against Mr. Nordahl.”
Nordahl said his intention was to defuse, not escalate, the problem and felt he had a duty to help protect the kids by imploring the suspect to stop restraining Bean in the elevator.
“I was concerned for Joel and the little kids because, well, he was gesturing and kicking the door and pounding the door and so on,” Nordahl said. “And they were just with their mouths open, you know? They appeared to be traumatized. I’m sure that he had some concern for his wife. But immediately as he saw me bang into that, he jumped back to stop the elevator doors from closing.”
Nordahl said he never heard from the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office prior to charges being declined.
Brady told KHON2: “Mr. Nordahl refused to give a statement to police at the time of this incident.” But Nordahl, who needed hospital care immediately following the assault, said he had multiple discussions with police in the days after.
“(HPD) did suggest that should I not want to drop the charges, that the wife might press a harassment charge, and he would have to, as he said, ‘I would have to read through your rights,’ ” Nordahl explained.
Nordahl is still recovering from injuries 10 days later.
“I’m very concerned about my head,” Nordahl said. “My major pains right now are in my ribs. I have some anxiety.”
He is hoping authorities will take another look at the totality of circumstances in the case, citing the preceding crosswalk incident, road rage, alleged racial slurs, Bean and the children being followed into the building and being held in the elevator, as well as tense verbal exchanges from and between many parties involved and damage to the elevator that hotel staff said was required to be re-set.
“I don’t make laws. I don’t enforce laws,” Nordahl said. “All I can do is trust.”
Always Investigating reached out to the others involved in the dispute, and the wife declined to comment on their behalf. The wife is a former deputy prosecuting attorney who left that office in 2011, which is a fact that Brady said “was not known to the deputy and was not a factor in the decision not to prosecute.”
KHON2 is not naming the husband or wife in this dispute as no charges were filed against either party, and it is our practice not to name suspects who have not been charged with crimes. KHON2 continues to follow up with prosecutors on additional questions involving this case, and we will report on any further updates.
Here is the full statement of First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Brady:
“The altercation between (the suspect) and Mr. Rolf Nordahl occurred on Oct. 3, 2021. On Oct. 4, 2021, a Honolulu Police Department detective conferred this matter with a senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney assigned to the Elder Abuse Unit within the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The evidence included but was not limited to, the hotel video which corroborated a statement from an independent witness who stated that (the suspect) was defending his wife against Mr. Nordahl. Mr. Nordahl refused to give a statement to police at the time of this incident.
After further conferring this matter with other experienced deputies within the Elder Abuse Unit, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office declined further prosecution in this matter.
As in all cases, a prosecutor has an ethical duty to charge offenses only if all elements to the offense(s) can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Here, that included proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that (the suspect) was not reasonable in his use of force for the protection of other persons, pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes 703-305.
The fact that the wife of (the suspect) was a former deputy prosecuting attorney, who had left the Prosecutor’s Office in 2011, was not known to the conferring deputy and was not a factor in the decision not to prosecute this matter.
Regarding your question about Mr. Nordahl speaking to the police after refusing to speak with the police, his subsequent statement about being willing to prosecute does not change the fact that (the suspect) has a legitimate justification defense under the law, specifically Section 703-305 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes relating to the use of force to protect third parties.
Regarding your question about the factors that we considered in our determination that (the suspect) has a legitimate justification defense, we considered all of the evidence that the police department provided to our Office at the time they referred the case to us on Oct. 4, 2021. We gave significant weight to the statement of an independent eyewitness, who did not know either Mr. Nordahl or Mr. and Mrs. (suspect). This independent eyewitness was corroborated by the surveillance video of Mr. Nordahl approaching (suspect) in an aggressive manner.
Regarding your question about speaking to Mr. Nordahl, we considered the statements that he made to the police, specifically, the statements that he made when the police responded to the scene and any subsequent statements that he provided to the police.
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Because (the suspect) has a legitimate justification defense for the force that he used in this case, legally and ethically we are constrained to file criminal charges. In short, given all the circumstances present in this incident, (the suspect’s) actions toward Mr. Nordahl were justifiable under the law. However, if any additional, credible evidence is brought forth by the police, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office would be open to reviewing the matter again.”