Robbery suspect released from custody days before brazen attack

Always Investigating

A convicted felon, who was caught in connection of a violent robbery this week near Ala Moana, had been arrested just days prior and was let go.

Victims’ rights advocates tell Always Investigating that the case sounds shocking, but represents the norm these days. They say brazen crime is escalating while some suspects slip through cracks between the police, prosecution and court.

Wednesday’s May 15 Ala Moana-area robbery targeted a group that included elderly victims, caused injury, and led to a foot chase when police tracked down the getaway vehicle.

One man and three women were arrested. One of the suspects — Keoki Cabebe — is no stranger to police on Oahu and Maui.

“This case, although it seems unusual, is actually the norm. And that’s one of the things I think is the problem with our current system is there’s this revolving door,” said Anticrime Advocate Michael Kitchens, who runs the Stolen Stuff Hawaii social media group.

Kitchens says Cabebe’s background is a familiar replay.

Cabebe’s theft record starts at age 18 on the Valley Isle. He works his way down to robbery and other felonies in a 2007 case, followed by assault charges while out on probation.

“If they’re a repeat offender, they’re habitual. There needs to be something that prevents them from going after our community,” Kitchens says.

Cabebe did end up spending more than seven years in state custody on felony robbery and car theft and was paroled last Aug. The paroling authority didn’t pursue reincarceration on a Jan. violation, because the max-out on his sentence would have been less than a month later, in Feb.

But it’s what happened in recent days that ups the ante on the consequences of the habitual crime revolving door.

Cabebe fails to appear for a May 3 hearing for driving without a license. A contempt of court warrant is issued and he’s caught May 5. His arrest log lists firearms offenses, too.

The next day he was in court for just the traffic warrant arrest, pled no contest and was released. 

The gun part of his arrest isn’t a factor at all. 

Then just days later on Wednesday, after four victims in the Ala Moana area are robbed violently, police track down a car that matched the suspects’ getaway vehicle description. Cabebe tries to run but police catch him — one of the same officers who had arrested him just 10 days before.

“HPD is extremely frustrated” Kitchens said. “The officers that I talk to they see the same guys over and over again and they feel just as frustrated as the community does.”

So how does this happen? A man who has already been through the correctional system for robbery, and caught just recently on a warrant with firearms and ammunition, is out within days and arrested in a violent robbery?

The Judiciary told Always Investigating: “No information regarding unregistered weapons was provided to the court” on that May 6 appearance for the prior day’s traffic warrant arrest, even though firearms are cited on the arrest log.

The Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office had a traffic-case attorney there but said in a statement, as of yesterday, that: “The Honolulu Office of the Prosecuting Attorney has not received information involving Mr. Cabebe and possible firearms or ammunition offenses.”
Always Investigating pressed the Honolulu Police Department several times as to why Cabebe was released-pending-investigation on the gun matter, and why HPD didn’t pass anything along about it from the May 5th arrest all the way through yesterday. 

HPD would not give a reason, saying only: “Cabebe was released….It is an ongoing and open investigation, and no further information is being released at this time.”

“I really think that our leadership is in disarray in regards to the prosecutor’s office,” Kitchens said, referring to Keith Kaneshiro being out on leave after getting a federal investigation target letter, and the police chief having said prior that she was not comfortable with Kaneshiro being at public safety meetings. “That makes it difficult for HPD to want to go talk to them. I think there may be a little bit of friction back and forth between HPD and the prosecutor’s office, that’s just from personal accounts. It depends on everything working together in harmony,” Kitchens adds, “and if you can’t get that then you are going to have mayhem and things aren’t going to happen, and our communities hurt because of that.”

Kitchens says better procedures and tougher laws could eliminate risks from miscommunication or mistrust between departments.

“I think there needs to be some way to hold criminals more accountable for their past actions,” Kitchens said. “I really think we need to focus on changing the laws so we can help our prosecutor’s office and HPD put people away.”

This evening, the prosecutor’s office charged Cabebe with four felony counts — 1st degree robbery, two related to gun possession, and one for use of a firearm in commission of a felony. 

Prosecutors say the gun charges are for a weapon allegedly used in the Wednesday robbery. Still no charges related to the gun police say was found in last week’s warrant arrest.

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