WAILUKU - A Kihei man is facing manslaughter and robbery charges, following the death Friday morning of a Longs Drug Store manager who was injured while trying to stop a shoplifter Sunday morning at the Kihei store.
Bail was increased to $50,000 for Peter Schmidt, 29, after a preliminary hearing Friday afternoon in Wailuku District Court. He is charged with manslaughter and first-degree robbery.
Deputy Prosecutor Kenton Werk said 61-year-old Jamie Hozaki died of the injuries inflicted by Schmidt when he was fleeing the store in a car.
Hozaki, who was general manager of the Longs Drug Store in Kihei, wasn't scheduled to work Sunday but had come into the store to handle payroll duties when the shoplifting occurred at about 5:30 a.m., employee Tracie Smith testified Friday.
She said that she was at the only open cash register in front of the store exit when she saw Hozaki walking behind a man carrying a 30-pack of beer.
"I looked him in the eye, looked at the beer," Smith said. "When he realized I knew he was taking the beer without paying for it, he panicked and ran out the door. My manager had put his cup of coffee down and went running."
In court, Smith identified the shoplifter as Schmidt, who put his head down on a table during most of the preliminary hearing Friday.
Smith said Schmidt was in the driver's seat of a white Ford sedan when Hozaki opened the driver's door. Hozaki had his hands on top of the door, Smith said, while she stood near Hozaki toward the inside of the open car door.
She said Hozaki twice asked Schmidt to return the beer, saying, "Give me the beer. Give me the beer back."
"Then, all of a sudden, the gentleman just hit the accelerator and reversed and my manger went flying off onto the pavement of the parking lot," Smith said.
She also fell to the ground and saw "headlights beaming right at me."
"I thought, 'My God, is he going to run us over?' " Smith said. "I was looking down at Jamie. He was out."
She said Schmidt kept the car in reverse and "gunned it out of the parking lot."
When Deputy Public Defender Greg Ball asked if Hozaki was trying to grab the steering wheel or take the key out of the ignition, Smith said no.
"There was no physical confrontation," she said. "He never touched him, never went into the car."
Before what happened outside, Schmidt had tried to sneak the beer out of a cooler after he had been told multiple times in the store that he couldn't buy beer until after 6 a.m., under state law, said Bradley Pittman, another Longs employee who was working that morning.
Pittman testified that he followed Hozaki as Schmidt ran out the door with the beer. Pittman said he saw the Ford Focus reverse into Hozaki and Smith, who were hit by the car door and pushed four to five feet. "It sounded like they were definitely hurt," Pittman said.
He said he tried to open the car's passenger door, but it was locked.
Pittman said he got the license plate number of the car.
He said he didn't get a good look at the shoplifter's face but identified Schmidt in court based on tattoos of large stars by his elbows.
Police reported arresting Schmidt on Monday morning in Kihei.
According to a court document, Detective Jeffrey Mahoney questioned Schmidt, who at first denied involvement in what happened. Schmidt later admitted he drove a white Ford Focus to the Longs store, was told by employees he couldn't buy the beer until after 6 a.m. and took the beer anyway and ran out of the store without paying, the document says.
Schmidt also told the detective that a man and woman came up to his car after he got in and "that the male was grabbing at him; that he became frightened and reversed his vehicle out of the parking stall; that he knew someone must have been knocked over by his open car door; that he did not go back and check on the male because he was too frightened," according to the document.
Hozaki was admitted into Maui Memorial Medical Center on Sunday with a severe brain injury and was pronounced dead at 7:50 a.m. Friday, the document says.
Judge Adrianne Heely ruled there was sufficient evidence to support the charges against Schmidt and increased his bail at Werk's request.
Schmidt is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 10 in 2nd Circuit Court.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.