Charges dropped in bizarre Home Depot incident

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald A man in a convertible drives out of the parking lot of the Hilo Home Depot store on Monday.

Video evidence reportedly cleared a Pahoa man arrested July 7 after a 24-year-old Volcano woman reported finding a zip tie on her vehicle in the Hilo Home Depot parking lot, leading her and others to use vehicles to block the lot’s entrances and exits.

According to a statement Monday by Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth, misdemeanor charges of third-degree assault and second-degree unauthorized entry to a motor vehicle were dropped against 55-year-old Angelo A. Valentino.

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Police arrested Valentino lawfully “based on the information at the scene,” according to Roth.

According to a July 7 police media release, the woman reported Valentino entered her car and assaulted her.

But review of video made available by the store showed that Valentino, after shopping, got into his car and attempted to leave the parking lot, but couldn’t do so because of vehicles blocking the exits, according to Roth’s statement.

The video, according to Roth, shows Valentino getting out of his car to see what was going on. Valentino was seen knocking on the driver’s side window of the woman’s car, opening the door to look inside the vehicle, then stepping away from the car.

The video shows the woman who reported the assault attacking Valentino from behind, Valentino defending himself — and then a man tackling Valentino, Roth said.

Roth said the man who allegedly tackled Valentino wasn’t Michael “Mikey” Glendon, a 38-year-old candidate for Hawaii County mayor. In a Facebook video that garnered thousands of views, Glendon said the woman was his girlfriend, and she called him to tell him a zip tie had been attached to her vehicle.

Glendon admitted in the Facebook video that he, the woman and others — without first calling police — used their vehicles to block the parking lot and then went through the lot to search for an alleged would-be abductor.

Glendon said he saw Valentino attack his girlfriend, and his friends acted to protect her and hold Valentino for police.

According to claims on social media, zip ties on a vehicle are a sign the vehicle’s occupant is being targeted for abduction or human trafficking. Fact-checking sites Snopes and Politifact describe the zip tie claims as a false narrative.

Hoax or not, “law enforcement takes these matters very seriously,” Roth told the Tribune-Herald on Monday.

“When there are any allegations that could involve human trafficking, they are thoroughly investigated,” Roth said. “So far, we have not seen any of these kinds of cases that have been mentioned on social media actually being reported to the police.”

Roth said neither police nor Home Depot security saw a zip tie on the woman’s vehicle.

According to Roth, security said people in the parking lot were talking about an alleged active shooter during the incident.

Lt. Rio Amon-Wilkins of the Hawaii Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Section said Monday that the alleged blockade “is still under investigation.”

“The guys are still in the process of reviewing all of the video surveillance,” Amon-Wilkins said. “There’s a lot of video surveillance from Home Depot.”

Glendon has twice in the past decade been acquitted of criminal charges by reason of mental incapacity, including for a nonfatal stabbing in 2011. If he is charged with a criminal offense in connection with the alleged incident, Roth won’t be the prosecutor — because he, like Glendon, is running for mayor in a crowded primary election race.

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“It would be a conflict of interest,” Roth said. “The purpose of my reviewing the videotapes was that we possibly have someone who could be retaliated against for something he didn’t do, and we wanted to prevent that from happening.”

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

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