HONOLULU (KHON2) — A 79-year-old man was set on fire in Chinatown early Tuesday morning.
It happened around 8:05 a.m. on Tuesday, April 12.
The Honolulu Emergency Medical Services arrived on the scene at around 9:13 a.m. and treated the 79-year-old man who had first and second-degree burns on his back and neck. EMS then transported the man to the nearest hospital in serious condition.
Residents are calling for more police presence. Police classified the incident as first degree assault and are looking for the suspect who was caught on video.
Video surveillance shows a man following the 79-year-old victim down a walkway leading into Chinatown Cultural Plaza. The video then shows the man stop to grab something out of his backpack and then walk up behind the victim and light the back of his shirt on fire.
Chu Lan Shubert-Kwok, president of the Chinatown business and community association said she knows the victim.
“This old man is a well known character,” Shubert-Kwock said. “He is in Chinatown every hour, everywhere.”
The assault comes as Mayor Rick Blangiardi and his administration continue their efforts to clean up and revitalize Chinatown.
Incidents like this are a setback.
“I think PR wise, it’s like, ‘Oh what happened.’ We have this very violent criminal element, but this is like an exception,” she said. “Burning somebody is the first time that I know, a lot of assault–stabbing is more common place. To set somebody on fire, I mean that is really kooky.”
A resident who asked to withhold her name said police need to patrol Chinatown more.
“A lot of people doing a lot of bad things, a lot of tourists, they’re not to come to Chinatown or even cultural plaza to do the dining,” she said. “They are afraid to get hurt so they get scared.”
In the last week alone, HPD’s Crimemapping lists more than 58 incidents of crime within a half mile radius of the Chinatown cultural plaza. 16 were assaults, 15 were theft and four robberies.
Shubert-Kwock said the city is working to get more police presence.
“Foot patrol is number one to crime prevention,” Shubert-Kwock said. “We cannot emphasis that enough.”
In a statement, HPD said: “HPD’s Chinatown Task Force continues to address chronic community. They work various times throughout the week.”
According to Shubert-Kwock, the city also plans to install more video surveillance.
“We’re going to have like 50 some cameras, which is a lot better than 26, which is so outdated,” said Shubert-Kwock.
Despite the horrible attack Tuesday morning, she said things are slowly improving in Chinatown.
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Police said the investigation into the assault is ongoing.