Marc Hokoana testified Tuesday that he was “more terrified than I’ve ever been in my life” when anti-fascist activist Joshua Dukes erupted from a crowd of protesters and grabbed him during a raucous demonstration on the University of Washington campus where right-wing firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to appear the night of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Hokoana had just admitted to jurors in his assault trial in King County Superior Court that he had fired his “pepper blaster” — a sort of pepper-spray gun — at a group of raucous and increasingly violent antifa protesters who were attacking and kicking a photographer when the black leather-clad Dukes “exploded out of the crowd and he was on me.”
“I’ve never seen anyone so angry in my life,” Hokoana said as Dukes, a large man who towered over him, grabbed him. Hokoana said Dukes was trying to pull him back into the protesters when he heard a “popping sound” and then Dukes was gone.
Panicked, Hokoana searched the milling crowd desperately for his frantic wife, Elizabeth Hokoana — he calls her Lily — and when he found her moments later, gave her the “biggest hug ever” and they left the campus. He said they caught a bus — the wrong one, it turned out — and were on a second bus when his wife, whom Hokoana had described as “the closest thing to a Disney princess in real life,” looked up from a video game and said, “I think I shot that man.”
Indeed, at that point Dukes, 36, was fighting for his life at Harborview Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Dukes, an avowed anarchist and anti-fascist, has said through an attorney that he does not believe in the U.S. criminal-justice system and would not testify during the trial. He offered to sit down and reconcile with the Hokoanas, but they have refused.
Marc Hokoana, 31, faces up to three months in jail for using pepper spray and Elizabeth Hokoana, also 31, is looking at up to 15 years in prison for shooting Dukes with a 9 mm handgun. After a five-week trial, the jury is getting what defense lawyers promised back in June: a chance to hear what happened outside Kane Hall the night of Jan. 20, 2017, from the defendants themselves. Marc Hokoana took the stand Wednesday morning and testified all afternoon. A blistering cross-examination by Senior Deputy King County Prosecutor Raam Wong will continue Wednesday, and then Elizabeth Hokoana is expected to testify. Closing arguments in the case are scheduled for Thursday.
The Hokoanas have claimed self-defense. Elizabeth Hokoana has said the 36-year-old Dukes had a knife and she feared for Marc Hokoana’s life when she fired. No other witness has testified they saw anything in Dukes’ hands.
Prosecutors allege the couple, both Trump supporters, had gone to the event at Kane Hall looking for a fight. Marc Hokoana carried pepper-spray and a knife, and Elizabeth Hokoana was armed with a 9 mm handgun in a holster under her parka.
Marc Hokoana, under questioning by defense attorney Kim Gordon, walked the jury through the night and offered benign explanations for some of the prosecution’s most damaging evidence — particularly a series of social media posts the night before the Yiannopoulos event in which Marc Hokoana boasted to a friend that “if the snowflakes get out of hand I’m just going to wade through their ranks and start cracking skulls.”
The night before, he told the friend that he wasn’t going to carry a firearm — although he has a concealed-carry permit — but that Elizabeth Hokoana would be armed. He told the jury that his wife rarely goes anywhere without a gun.
He told the jurors that most of the comments were “jokes” and that he was “ashamed” he had posted the ones threatening violence.
Marc Hokoana told the jury he was trying to be a calming influence that night, although he was seen approaching groups of antifa protesters several times and claims he was “sucker punched” by one obscenity-spewing man.
After the shooting, Marc Hokoana said he and Elizabeth Hokoana went home, showered and changed their clothes because they were covered in pepper spray. He gathered up her handgun, and they drove to the University of Washington Police Station where he and his wife surrendered with their hands up. Marc Hokoana said he had been watching social media and saw that police were looking for an Asian man in a yellow cap in connection with the shooting. He had been in a yellow hat that night, he said, “and I sort of put two and two together.”
“My wife had just shot someone to defend me,” he told the jury. “I wasn’t going to let her do it alone.”