Neighbors Say Fire Followed Violent Domestic Dispute

Fire Officials Estimate Damages At $150,000

 UPDATED 8:42 AM HST Feb 20, 2012
MAKAKILO, Hawaii -

Palehua Gardens resident Robert Bishop said just before the fire broke out Saturday night at his neighbor's townhouse unit, he heard a woman desperately pleading for her life.

"We heard this lady screaming for help," Bishop said.

Bishop, 49, said he ran outside to find his next door neighbor choking his wife on the street. Bishop said, the man who goes by the name "T", went back into his townhome and minutes later, the 2-story structure was on fire.

Honolulu firefighters returned to unit 33 to investigate, as residents of Palehua Gardens tried to make sense of the terrifying string of events the night before.

"The flames just went as high as this house," said resident Virginia Cooter.

Neighbor James Harris said he was home when he smelled the fire and alerted his neighbors.

"(I) started pounding on the other units, saying everybody get out get out get out get out and there was flames everywhere," said Harris.

Neighbors said they grabbed their garden hoses and fire extinguishers and started battling the fire until firefighters arrives.

"All the neighbors was with all of their hoses and we took all of the fire extinguishers," said Bishop.

Bishop said you could hear the glass breaking.

A spokesperson for the fire department said no one was injured in the blaze.

Damages are estimated at $150,000.

History Of Violence

Neighbors said they often heard arguing coming from the town home destroyed in the fire.

Residents said they often called 911. Officers would arrive but the abuse would continue. The chief executive officer of the Domestic Violence Action Center, Nancy Kriedman, said neighbors need to continue to call authorities.

"As a community we have to keep calling police because they are trained to respond, it's safest if they respond, it's their responsibility to respond. So we encourage neighbors and co-workers and family and friends to call on police for help because that begins a process where either an arrest occurs, or a court hearing is set, a trial proceeds then there is sanctions," Kriedman said.

Kriedman said the public often is afraid to get involved.

Neighbors said the woman was trying to get a divorce.

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