Kumu hula attacked in Chinatown while trying to keep elderly students safe

A kumu hula was attacked in Chinatown last week trying to keep his elderly students safe.

Jack McKeague says he and his students were trying to leave Pauahi Recreation Center after their class last Thursday, Dec. 14, but couldn’t.

McKeague says he’s been teaching kupuna at the center for more than two decades, and the incident was the first time anything like this has happened.

But he fears it could happen again.

McKeague’s eye is still blood red and swollen one week after he was attacked.

He would like to see more police patrols in Chinatown to keep people safe.

“We’re concerned about our kupuna,” McKeague said. “A lot of them are afraid to come here now.”

Many of them witnessed his assault.

Harriet Morris has been taking hula with McKeague for the past 25 years at Pauahi Recreation Center. She said the homeless usually don’t cause trouble, but last week was different.

“That day was really terrifying because the guy was really aggressive and really violent,” she recalled. “I heard him ranting and raving outside and using profanity, so I called Jack and said there’s a guy out there swearing. He said, well okay, just wait and we’ll all go out together.”

McKeague stood in front of the doorway leading into Pauahi Recreation Center and explained what happened.

“He was actually sitting in this area,” McKeague said, gesturing toward the ground covered in cardboard in front of the glass door. “He had all his belongings scattered over here, so we couldn’t open the door.”

McKeague said the man refused to move his belongings, so he opened the door, pushing some of the man’s things to the side. That’s when McKeague said the man attacked him.

“He grabbed me. He put me in the headlock and he tried to gouge my right eye out, but I pushed him on the street, away from my seniors, because I didn’t want them to get hurt,” McKeague said.

“Next thing I knew, Jack was on the road with him,” Morris said. “He was on top of Jack, so we tried to pull the guy off.”

Police were called and the man was arrested.

McKeague and his students are hoping the police will patrol this area more often.

“This is about protecting our citizens, our kupuna. We need to protect them. This is their safe place,” he said.

McKeague became a victim after trying to reason with an aggressive person.

A city spokesperson said if you ever encounter an aggressive person or feel threatened, you should immediately dial 911. It’s never a good idea to try to deal with it on your own.

The city also said police regularly patrol the area.

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