Social media helps track down boat vandal

  • Bhajan Morris
  • Photo courtesy of MAGGIE BROWN

    This image captured from surveillance video aboard the Kanoa II shows a suspect preparing to disembark the Kanoa II on Monday night. The man allegedly swam out to the Kanoa II, which is owned by Body Glove Cruises, and vandalized the vessel before removing items.

KAILUA-KONA — A couple headed on vacation is $1,000 richer and a man was set to spend the night in jail after social media helped track down a suspect who vandalized a Body Glove Cruises vessel Monday night in Kailua Bay.

Maggie Brown, owner of the Kanoa II and Body Glove Cruises in Kailua-Kona, posted video and sounded off in a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon after her vessel was boarded without authorization and vandalized. She also offered $1,000 for information leading to the suspect’s arrest.

ADVERTISING


“It was just a mess,” Brown said about the 65-foot catamaran moored in Kailua Bay. “When we boarded, a lot of things were missing. The boat was pretty much vandalized — crap was all over the place.”

Employees found the boat in disarray when they boarded it Tuesday ahead of the daily snorkel and dolphin adventure that takes off about 8 a.m.

Many items were stolen, set adrift and tossed into the water, including the boat’s snorkel gear. The suspect, who was caught on surveillance camera, also pulled out the vessel’s anchor chain, tore up and threw around cushions and staged boat lines in the boat’s propellers, in addition to throwing around perishables, utensils, sugar packets and “decorating the boat with honey.”

It also appears the man might have tried to make off with the vessel itself, Brown said.

“He tried starting the engines and putting it in gear and messing with a lot of different controls at the helm,” she said, surmising the man must have thought he was bringing up the vessel’s anchor when he pulled the anchor chain. However, the vessel is moored.

In the end, the vandal spent about an hour aboard the boat and left about 9:50 p.m. on a stand-up paddleboard with a paddle and gaff.

Brown said she later learned from fishermen on the pier that the man was acting erratic earlier in the evening, telling them that he was going to swim to the boat. He later returned to the pier on the stand-up paddleboard, which he tried to sell for $20, the gaff, which he traded with the fishermen for a couple of beers, and the paddle.

The suspect was unsuccessful in selling the paddleboard and left it on a nearby beach, Brown said. It’s unclear what happened to the paddle; however, the gaff was returned to Brown by the fishermen.

Brown reported the incident to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Ocean Conservation and Resources Enforcement on Tuesday morning before taking the crime to Facebook later in the day. She estimated the value of the items damaged or removed from the vessel at just more than $5,100.

Kailua-Kona resident Aimee Russell saw Brown’s post on Facebook after a mutual friend shared it. She saved the information to her phone for reference.

“I drive Uber, so I thought I’d keep an eye out today, and he was the second person I saw on Alii Drive,” said Russell, who was with her husband, Jonathon Russell, when they spotted the man about 10 a.m. Wednesday and contacted police.

She followed him toward Kona Community Aquatics Center, staying on the phone with dispatchers until officers arrived and took him into custody. Russell then called Brown, who rushed to the scene.

“Sure enough, he had the same tattoo and he confessed,” Brown said. “He wouldn’t give his name, but he confessed that, yes, he did it.”

The man was later identified as Bhajan Morris, 37, of no permanent address. He was arrested on suspicion of fourth-degree criminal property damage, second-degree theft and unsworn falsification to authorities, according to Big Island police.

For Russell’s work, Brown awarded her the $1,000 reward she offered less than 24 hours earlier on social media.

“It’s just so good that the community cared,” Brown said.

And, it couldn’t come at a more opportune time because the couple was slated to fly out just hours later for a vacation in Jamaica followed by a stop for a friend’s wedding on the West Coast.

Russell said they plan to spend some of the dough as well as put some away for a rainy day. While money is nice, the feeling of helping others was better.

ADVERTISING


“It felt really good to help the community because you never know what could happen if he could have came back or anything like that,” she said shortly after Morris was arrested. “It just felt really good to be able to help them and get somebody off the streets who is committing crimes.”

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.