A Makaha man has blocked public access to Makua Beach for the past eight months and has threatened some people with violence.
But city and state authorities haven’t forced Samson Souza and his family off West Oahu’s beach, even though it’s illegal in Hawaii to block access to a public beach.
The police charged him in November Harassment and Terrorist Threat for threatening to physically harm a woman. Authorities are now waiting to see if he appears in court this week on charges.
Officials say when they contacted Souza on Makua Beach, he hung up his phone to record them on his social media and said he told them the people who were harassing the dolphins were foreigners.
Residents have been talking about him on social media for months.
“He has no right to control a public beach,” Makaha resident Emily Silge told Civil Beat. She had an altercation with Souza in early November.
“Some people, including myself, are afraid he will continue to threaten locals and visitors with violence. He’s been threatening locals who he believes are Haoles, so leaving this area would make the energy positive again.”
Residents say they are afraid to return to Makua Beach after recent encounters with Souza, who called and threatened physical violence and property damage, including having her tires slashed out racist comments. Souza recently tried to bar film producers from accessing the beach.
Silge described her encounter with Souza on Makua Beach.
She got into a heated argument with Souza after she said she saw him stop two men from entering the beach. As she got out of her car, Silge told Souza he couldn’t threaten people. She said he immediately pulled out his phone to pick her up and started yelling at her.
“Things escalated from there,” says Silge. “He said no law could stop him because this wasn’t America, and then he said he was going to smash my head in.”
Silge added that he started calling her “fucking stink haole” and telling her she was eligible while he was capturing her in a live video. Silge also said that the man Souza was blocking the beach had a panic attack while she was arguing with Souza.
“I’m pretty sure he would have hit him if I hadn’t stopped,” said Silge.
Silge, who lived in Makaha for 10 years, comes to Makua Beach every weekend for freediving, beach cleaning and takes her daughter to the tide pool. But since the encounter, Silge said she has not returned.
Makua Beach, located between Makaha and Kaena Point, is known for its crystal clear waters, fishing activities, tide pools, beach breaks and dolphins.
Waikiki resident Noelle Ball said she often visits Makua Beach, adding that it’s one of her favorite beaches on Oahu because of its quiet and peaceful nature. In mid-October, Ball said she took her friend to Makua Beach while showing her around the island.
As soon as Ball and her friend got out of their car, she said Souza yelled at them across the parking lot. At first, Ball said she thought Souza was talking to someone else or that he was worried she and her friend were swimming in the choppy waves.
As soon as Ball told Souza that she was showing her friend around, she said Souza started recording her while telling her to leave his country, calling her “fucking haole” and “dirty haole”.
Ball said she was afraid to argue with him and didn’t want the situation to escalate.
“It was just me and my girlfriend. And being a girl is scary when a man that big is yelling at you and yelling at you,” Ball said. “Personally, I felt confused and threatened. He just kept saying, ‘Don’t leave your car.’ It was a nuance that something bad will happen if you step on this beach.”
Jen Schindler said Souza and his wife threatened to physically remove her and her family from Makua Beach by “knocking us out.” She said it was the same story when she tried to go back.
“I’ve lived here for many years,” Schindler said in an email. “We always got out of what we recorded. Never leave a mess. Also such a peaceful time with the kids after a hard week at work. Now we can’t even go there.”
Conversations about the encounters with Souza have spread on social media.
The username “thehungryhungryhawaiian” posted several videos of Souza’s altercations on Instagram. Most of the videos showed him and the residents screaming back and forth.
In one video, a local with the username “madeinkaimuki” urged Souza to show compassion for visitors to Hawaii.
“This is my home and I welcome you to my home,” the local said in the Instagram video.
“I don’t welcome them into my house,” Souza replied. “It’s not aloha. You bring these people to exploit our place and then they bring their people here. Don’t fucking play dumb. I bring my nephews here.”
A reporter and photographer from Civil Beat spoke to Souza on the beach last week. Souza said he doesn’t try to throw anyone off the beach. Instead, he said he protects the dolphins from commercial boats, kayak tour operators and beachgoers who come to geotag the area.
“I’m not trying to throw anyone off this beach,” he said. “If you come here with bad intentions, like swimming with dolphins or taking pictures of our ice box, then we have to hold people accountable.” Souza describes the ocean as an ice box.
A resting place for Hawaii’s spinner dolphins, Makua Beach has been a destination for beachgoers and boat tours for decades. The dolphins had become a popular tourist attraction, prompting local residents to express concerns that the flow of visitors was getting out of control.
A sign at the entrance to the beach cites a federal law that says no one can stay within 50 meters of the dolphins, warning that such activities are harmful to health. According to the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, no one has ever been subpoenaed to come within 50 meters of the dolphins.
However, Souza said he saw many people ignoring this sign. And although Souza and his wife Kawehionalani have warned visitors not to swim with dolphins, they said people are doing it anyway.
Souza said he remembered the altercation with Silge and said he saw two beachgoers with a paddle board and he asked them if they would swim with the dolphins. According to Souza, the beachgoers said they didn’t care if they went near the dolphins, so he asked them to leave. But they didn’t, and at that moment, Souza said, Silge came out of her car and yelled at him.
Souza’s wife Kawehionalani said Silge escalated the situation because she got out of her car to yell at her.
“I think it could have been communicated better,” said Kawehionalani Souza. “If she hadn’t come across like that, we could have communicated with her, but we didn’t even have the chance.”
Souza told Civil Beat he was staying at Makua Beach.
He currently faces second-degree harassment and terrorist threat charges, according to court documents. He has been ordered to appear in court on Wednesday or a warrant will be issued for his arrest.
Court documents show Souza was charged on November 11 with molestation and threatening to physically harm a woman. Honolulu prosecutors say further details of his case will not be released until later.
Some residents are frustrated at how the situation is being handled.
Makua Beach is a state beach managed by the Department of Land of Natural Resources.
It is illegal in Hawaii to block access to a public beach. However, Souza has not been charged with violating this law or quoted by DLNR.
“Mr. Souza has no citations from DOCARE. It does not appear that Mr. Souza is on state land; therefore jurisdiction falls under HPD,” DLNR spokeswoman Madison Rice said in an email.
When asked if Souza violated the Public Beach Access Act, DLNR did not respond.
But HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu said the police department could only deal with Souza’s charges of harassment and terror threats.
“Makua Beach Park is a state park, not a city park,” Yu said in an email. “The park has several side access roads and some cattle gates maintained by the DLNR. When the DLNR says the jurisdiction falls under HPD, they may be referring to the two pending cases as the DLNR does not conduct any harassment or terrorist threat investigations.”
Local residents concerned about the situation shared copies of an email exchange they had between HPD Sgt. Fumikazu Muraoka and city officials after officials reviewed Souza on Nov. 15.
Souza recorded the meeting with the officers and told them that the people he asked to leave were foreigners who were harassing the dolphins and that US laws don’t apply to him.
“There were several beachgoers present when we arrived, so he seems to have changed his tune a bit since last week,” Muraoka said in the email. “Some days he seems fine but others more aggressive based on the words of those who have spoken to him in the recent past.”
“He stated that he has not received notification of court appearance yet, not sure if notification will be in the near future or if he is just in denial,” Muraoka continued.
Richard Wallsgrove, an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law, said there is a penalty if access to a public state park is obstructed.
“It sounds to me like this is a subject that’s so full of historical and cultural nuance,” Wallsgrove said. “I see the same jurisdiction question because I think counties in general are responsible for beach access issues, but this beach in particular and the parking of this beach is a state park.”
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