The Kid Is Innocent

The only question is whether the DA will do anything to free 17-year-old Arthur Carmona

"Put the money in the bag," the young man said. One of the other employees started to walk toward him. "Get the fuck back," he ordered, and right away, the other employee stepped back and put his hands up.

Abdel-Samad took all the money out of the register—$343.86 is the amount that would later be determined—and put it in the backpack. He lifted up the drawer to show that there was nothing more. "Everybody get down on the floor," the young man said coolly. Everybody got down on the floor.

When they heard his footsteps going out the door, they got up and called 911.

Arthur Carmona got up at about 10 that morning. His mom had already left for work. There was no school that day, so he lay in bed for a while and watched cartoons. Then he ironed some clothes, took a shower, cleaned his room, watched some more TV, and listened to some music. Easing into the day.

Arthur had just turned 16. He lived in an apartment off Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa with his sister and his mom, who is separated from his father. Sports-minded. Average student (which is actually an accomplishment, since he has a bit of a learning disorder and had been in some special-education classes). Shy. A decent-sized kid, about 5-foot-10, 165 pounds. His hair is black; at the time, he was wearing it shaved pretty close to the scalp—probably a No. 1 if you know your barbering tools. Goatee. Bad acne. Basically your typical kid. No really serious run-ins with the police. Once, he was stopped by a school security guard and found to be carrying a small bat, but that was handled without charges. Another time, he got a ticket for riding his bike without wearing a helmet.

Starting at about 1 p.m., as he would later recount it, Arthur got on the phone and talked with some friends. One of them was Edwin Martinez; they talked about maybe going to visit a girl they knew later that day. Between calls, Arthur listened to music. He had it turned up pretty loud, and the guy who lived upstairs had to pound on the floor to get him to turn it down. Sometime between 2 and 3 p.m., there was a knock on the door. Arthur answered it and talked for a moment with Janett Cortez, who had stopped by to pick up Arthur's sister. At about 3 p.m., Arthur called his friend Paul Millan. They talked for about five minutes, but Paul was in a rush because his mother, his brother and another friend were waiting for him in the car outside his house.

the Juice Club was in a row of shops, alongside a video store, a flower shop and a coffee place. Across Veneto from the row of shops was a Texaco gas station. As he was gassing up, Irvine resident Kenneth Cashion noticed an older-model pickup painted primer-gray parked beside the station. A man was behind the wheel as if waiting for someone. Finished at the pump, Cashion was just starting to drive away when he saw a young Hispanic running across Veneto toward the gray pickup. He was wearing a black coat with white stripes, and he was carrying a black bag. Cashion lost sight of him for a moment but then saw the gray pickup pull out onto Main Street, the driver leaning toward his right as if he were talking to a passenger.

Something clicked in Cashion's brain, and he wrote down the license-plate number. He did this on a check stub, the only thing he had handy.

He heard sirens coming his way.

Arthur Carmona left the apartment around 3:30 p.m. He was going to go visit a friend, Roy Bueno, who lived with his family in Costa Mesa north of Baker, west of Fairview and just south of the 405 freeway. Arthur rode his bike north on Harbor Boulevard and then east on Baker across Fairview.

Irvine police officers arrived at the Juice Club moments after the call came in. They took Abdel-Samad's statement and description of the robber. They also got descriptions from the other two employees, Joseph Kim and Samuel Ku, and from the two women customers, Janet Hildabrand and Stephanie Schwartz. The descriptions varied widely. Kim described the robber as a male Hispanic, about 6 feet tall, 165 pounds with a slim face and body, wearing a baseball cap and black pants. Ku described him as about 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, wearing a black cap. Hildabrand and Schwartz described him as about 5-foot-4 and 110 pounds.

While police were puzzling over this, Cashion ran up. He told them what he'd seen. He gave them the plate number he'd written on a check stub.

The plate number was run through the computer. This returned a name, that of a 33-year-old Hawaiian named Shawn Kaiwi, and an address, an apartment at 1000 South Coast Dr. in Costa Mesa. By a little after 4 p.m., police officers from both Irvine and Costa Mesa had arrived there. They spotted the truck. As a ruse, they had an apartment manager call Kaiwi at his apartment and tell him the truck was about to be towed because it didn't have a proper parking sticker. A few moments later, Kaiwi himself walked out to the truck.

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