It’s Risky Being A Good Samaritan

Larry Price
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Wednesday - May 28, 2008
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It has been said many times, but it deserves to be repeated. Hawaii’s fragile tourism industry is one national story away from serious harm. Violence against tourists is not only shocking, it’s probably inevitable, especially in Waikiki and on isolated beaches and parks around the state. The criminal element in Hawaii is predatory in nature. In the hours of darkness and when no one is around they strike, hoping to finance their drug habit or pay bills.

I once heard a defendant in a bank robbery case in court give the most honest answer ever uttered in a courtroom. The judge asked the defendant why he tried to rob the bank. The young defendant answered nonchalantly, “Because that’s where the money is and I needed money.” A similar answer would probably be applicable to a defendant who attempted to rob a tourist in Waikiki. Additionally, most tourists are on vacation, relaxed and not on guard against predators, and alone in a strange environment. Said another way, easy pickings.

The recent cases of the so-called “Good Samaritans” who where killed or seriously injured trying to render aid to a victim of a crime in progress present another dilemma. The topic came up in the last legislative session, but a bill introduced by Sen. Fred Hemmings didn’t survive the committee process. Unfortunately, there was no discussion on the merits of rending aid and more important, how to render aid in a public place.

The last two cases involving a “Good Samaritan” are troubling for a couple of reasons. In one case, on the Windward side of the Oahu, a 300-pound man beat a woman to death with the butt of a shotgun. The “Good Samaritan” who tried to stop the hulking attacker was severely beaten for his efforts. It’s interested to note that others were watching and did not attempt to intervene.

In the attack in Waikiki, at Kalakaua and Paokalani avenues, the Good Samaritan was beaten and died from his injuries. It’s a good bet that there were others watching when the crime was being committed who did not intervene. In both of these incidents, the Good Samaritans were gentlemen 50 years of age or older. How come the people trying to render aid are always older? Are younger, would-be Good Samaritans smarter, cowardly, not interested or a combination of all three?

The police department would probably say something like, “Try to remember everything you can about the scene, get a description of the assailants, call 911 and don’t get involved. Do not, under any circumstances, try to approach or apprehend the person committing the crime. Just sit tight in a safe place and wait for the police to arrive. After all, why get yourself killed over a purse or a domestic argument?” Everyone probably has a different answer to that question. It would be very wrong for others to make moral judgments about rendering aid. In any case, it must be a scary decision to make on the spur of the moment.

Of course, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want someone to render them aid in a life-or-death situation. It’s interesting that if motorists are involved in an accident on the road, they are required by law to stop and render aid and stay there until the emergency officials arrive. Makes you wonder if you have to do that when driving, why wouldn’t the same theory of rendering aid apply in Waikiki, or anywhere, for that matter?

There was a study done after a woman was raped and killed in a metropolitan city as 20-30 residents in the area watched the attack and did nothing to assist the victim. When they were questioned by the researchers, the answer most always given for not getting involved in remedying the situation was that they were expecting someone else to come forward who was more experienced in those kinds of emergencies. On the plus side, several did call 911, others didn’t because they didn’t want to be called as witnesses.

Naturally, this is a police matter, and hopefully their experts will come forward and give all of us “The Top 10 Tips For Being a Good Samaritan in Hawaii” or “How to Save a Life Without Getting Killed.” We always get “tips” on how to barbecue, assemble disaster preparedness kits and host safe graduation parties. Why not give the public the top 10 tips for being a Good Samaritan? It might save a few lives and a deter a few potential criminal attacks in the future.

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