KAPAA — A Kauai District Court judge ruled Wednesday enough probable cause existed to warrant a second-degree robbery charge for the suspect accused of ripping off a Kapaa bank last week.
Joshua Carlsen, 36, of Kapaa, remains in custody on $250,000 bail.
Police arrested Carlsen along Kuhio Highway near the Hauaala Road intersection at 12:10 a.m. Jan. 28 not far from his home at 4666 Hauaala Road. He was suspected of robbing the Bank of Hawaii in Kapaa by handing a bank teller a note demanding cash. The note threatened that the suspect had a gun.
Carlsen, who was convicted of attempted second-degree murder in California in 2002, was initially charged with first-degree robbery but a firearm was never produced in the commission of the crime nor found during the arrest or investigation, so the charge was reduced and the case did not go to federal prosecutors.
During Carlsen’s preliminary hearing Wednesday, Judge Trudy Senda said there was sufficient evidence to show cause for second-degree robbery.
State Deputy Public Defender Samuel Jajich argued there was not probable cause when the teller did not identify the suspect in court. He said the clothing in the photos was not a true match to what Carlsen was wearing when policeman spotted him walking shortly after the crime.
The first witness during the hearing was the customer service teller who was robbed inside the bank. She has six years experience and said they receive training on how to respond during robberies.
She identified the suspect in the bank surveillance photo in court as the “haole” who robbed her sometime between 12:50 and 1 p.m. on Jan. 28. The teller glanced toward Carlsen, who had an unexplained black eye, throughout the hearing, but was not asked by the prosecutor or defense attorney to point out if the person was present in the courtroom.
There was one other customer in the bank at the time which is not unusual for Wednesdays, she said. The suspect came in the parking lot door and her teller station was the closest to that entrance.
The suspect was wearing a dark hoodie and loud “aggressive music” was coming from an earphone in his right ear, she said. The left side of his head was blocked by the hoodie.
The suspect was wearing a black hat with a black emblem that was difficult to make out, she said. The counter blocked any view of his pants and she could not recall if he had on jewelry.
“He was sweating a lot and seemed a little jittery,” the teller said.
The suspect handed her a note with his right hand and kept his left hand in the hoodie pocket, she said. The note read “I have a gun. Give me all your money and nobody gets hurt.”
She did not know how much money she gave him but he took it in his hands and walked toward the parking lot entrance rather than walk across the bank to the door facing the highway, she said.
Once he left, the teller said she ran to the branch manager, who in turn, notified security and tripped the alarm.
After counting what was left of the till, the bank estimated that he made off with $7,800 to $8,000.
Ted Lemons manages the property where Carlsen and his girlfriend live. They had a month-to-month agreement with a lease, he said.
Lemons testified to seeing Carlsen around 7 a.m. the day of the robbery, but not after that. It was not unusual because Carlsen was a landscaper, he said.
That afternoon, the property owner texted Lemons to provide the names of the tenants and their leases to detectives, who wanted to ask them if they saw the suspect crossing the property. He said Carlsen spoke to him on the phone and said he wanted his lease back because he was leaving for lack of work and wanted to try something new.
Lemons was not at home but said his fiancée told him to return to the residence and ensure that no one breaks in to take the leases. He didn’t associate the request with the robbery at the time.
Detectives interviewed Lemons at the residence sometime after 10:30 p.m. They showed him the robbery photo on a camera view screen.
“Before the photo I had no idea what was going on,” Lemons said.
Cahill asked Lemons to look at the photo again in court.
“It looks to me to be Josh,” he said.
KPD Sgt. Mark Ozaki was in a meeting at Kapaa High School when the robbery call came.
Ozaki was driving an unmarked vehicle and as officers were focusing on a suspect in the Wailua area, he went opposite to North Kapaa. While driving down Hauaala road he said someone caught his eye, not as a suspect, but for his appearance and manner of walking.
Appearing at first to be a construction worker, the man he identified later as Carlsen, crossed the road in front of his unmarked squad car and Ozaki noticed that his blue jeans were wet and that he was carrying a pair of slippers.
“He appeared anxious, breathing hard and wet,” Ozaki said.
Carlsen then scaled the stone wall and grass embankment in front of the residence with a long driveway. After receiving the robbery photo on his phone, Ozaki said he made the connection and called in the location as 4666 Hauaala Road.
Detective Ken Cummings testified that after the arrest of Carlsen the investigators got a warrant to search the house the following morning. They discovered about $5,000 in cash rolled up in a shirt in a bathroom cabinet. The denominations were in the ranges reported missing from the bank.
Special Investigator John Burgess with the prosecutor’s office provided results of two criminal background checks. Carlsen has no previous convictions in Hawaii, but has four felony convictions in California.
According to the report, Carlsen was convicted of attempted second-degree murder, and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon in 2002. He also has a felony conviction for possession of a controlled substance in 2011.
The photos of crimes and past residences matched and California Superior Court confirmed the convictions, Burgess said. The last known Mainland residence of Carlsen was in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Judge Senda scheduled Carlsen’s circuit court arraignment hearing before Chief Judge Randal Valenciano on Feb. 18.