Leilani standoff suspect acquitted by mental irresponsibility

  • Tribune-Herald file Police take people from the scene of a hostage situation Dec. 19, 2017 on Leilani Avenue in Leilani Estates.
  • JOVIN CHANG

A 34-year-old Pahoa man who abducted his children’s mother, shot a man who was with her, and then held off police with a rifle for several hours before ending the standoff by shooting himself in the face two years ago was acquitted on Jan. 3 of all charges by reason of mental irresponsibility.

Jovin Chang faced charges of first- and second-degree attempted murder, kidnapping, first-degree criminal property damage, carrying a firearm in the commission of a separate felony, carrying a loaded firearm on a public roadway and illegally carrying ammunition.

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Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto said during sentencing the state had proven its case, but after hearing testimony from witnesses during a bench trial and reading the reports of doctors assigned to evaluate Chang’s mental state, he concluded Chang suffered from mental issues and lacked the capacity to be responsible for his actions at the time of the offenses.

The judge ordered Chang transferred to the custody of the state Department of Health and set a status hearing for 9:30 a.m. April 3.

Chang did not make a statement during his sentencing hearing.

According to court minutes, psychiatrist Andrew Bisset testified on Nov. 22 that Chang was impaired by a major depressive order, and psychiatrist Henry Yang testified on Oct. 25 Chang’s depression rendered him incapable of determining the wrongfulness of his actions.

Psychologist Allison Gunderson disagreed, testifying on Nov. 22 that Chang’s cognitive and volitional functions weren’t substantially impaired by a physical or mental defect.

Chang’s crime spree started before dawn on Dec. 19, 2017, with police responding to a 5:39 p.m. report of a shooting on Nohea Street in Leilani Estates subdivision. Officers found the victim, Ralph Aviles Jr., then 25, with multiple gunshot wounds to his body.

Aviles told police he and Sandy Nasario, then 30, the mother of Chang’s four daughters, were tailed by a blue SUV driven by Chang. When both vehicles stopped, Chang and Aviles allegedly engaged in a confrontation that ended with Chang shooting Aviles several times.

Aviles is the son of retired professional boxer Ralph Aviles Sr., who was once the world’s third-ranked junior lightweight and a major draw as a main-event fighter at Honolulu’s Blaisdell Center Arena.

Police say after Chang shot Aviles, he ordered Nasario into Chang’s SUV.

Puna Patrol Officer Tristin Allen encountered the SUV turning into the driveway of a Leilani Avenue home, police said.

Gunshots coming from the home during the hourslong standoff caused more than $20,000 in damage to Allen’s Toyota 4Runner, according to a court document.

Allen wasn’t injured but was forced to leave his vehicle on the road and establish a perimeter with the assistance of other responding officers, police said.

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If convicted of the first-degree attempted murder charge for shooting at Allen while the latter was on duty, Chang would’ve faced a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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