A Makaha man has been blocking public access to Makua Beach for the past eight months, including threatening some people with violence.
But city and state authorities have not forced Samson Souza and his family to leave the West Oahu beach even though it’s illegal in Hawaii to obstruct access to a public beach.
Police charged him in November with harassment and terroristic threatening for threatening to physically harm a woman. Now authorities are waiting to see if he shows up in court this week on the charges.
Officers say when they contacted Souza at Makua Beach, he put his phone up to record them on his social media and said he told them the people were foreigners bothering the dolphins.
Local 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 me, are fearful that he will continue to threaten violence on locals and visitors. He has threatened locals who he thinks are haoles, so him leaving that area would make the energy positive again.”
Residents say they are afraid to return to Makua Beach after recent encounters with Souza, who threatened physical violence and property damage like slashing their tires, as well as calling out racial slurs. Souza has recently tried to block access to film producers at the beach.
Silge described her encounter with Souza at Makua Beach.
She got into a heated argument with Souza after she said she saw him body-blocking two men from entering the beach. When she got out of her car, Silge told Souza he couldn’t threaten people. She said he immediately pulled out his phone to record her and began to yell at her.
“That’s when things escalated,” Silge said. “He said that no law could stop him because this is not America and then he told me that he was going to bash my head in.”
Silge added that he started calling her “fucking stink haole” and telling her she was entitled while recording her on live video. Silge also said the man Souza was blocking from the beach had a panic attack while she was arguing with Souza.
“If I didn’t pull up, I’m pretty sure he would have hit him,” Silge said.
Silge, who lived in Makaha for 10 years, has been coming to Makua Beach for free-diving, beach cleanups and taking her daughter to the tide pool every weekend. But, since the encounter, Silge said she hasn’t returned.
Makua Beach, located between Makaha and Kaena Point, is known for its crystal clear water, fishing activities, tide pools, beach breaks and dolphins.
Waikiki resident Noelle Ball said she often visits Makua Beach, adding 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 was yelling at them across the parking lot. At first, Ball said she thought Souza was talking to someone else or thought he was concerned that she and her friend were going to swim 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 get off his land and called her “fucking haole” and “dirty haole.”
Ball said she was afraid to reason with him and didn’t want the situation to escalate.
“It was just me and my girlfriend. And being a girl is scary to have a man that big cussing and yelling at you,” Ball said. “I personally felt confused and threatened. He just kept saying, ‘Don’t leave your car.’ It was a nuance of something bad will happen if you step foot on that beach.”
Jen Schindler said Souza and his wife have 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 have lived here for many years,” Schindler said in an email. “We always brought out what we took in. Never left a mess. Also such a peaceful time with the kids after a hard week at work. Now we can’t even go there.”
Talk of the encounters with Souza have been spreading on social media.
The username “thehungryhungryhawaiian” posted several videos of Souza’s altercations on Instagram. Most of the videos showed him and the residents yelling back and forth.
One video had a local man with the username “madeinkaimuki” telling Souza to show compassion for people visiting Hawaii.
“This is my home, and I welcome them to my home,” the local man said in the Instagram video.
“I’m not welcoming them to my home,” Souza responded. “It’s not aloha. You bringing these people to exploit our place, and then they bring their people over here. Don’t fucking act dumb. I’ll bring my nephews over here.”
A Civil Beat reporter and photographer talked with Souza at the beach last week. Souza said he’s not trying to kick anyone off the beach. Instead, he said he is protecting the dolphins from commercial boats, kayak tour operators, and beachgoers coming to geotag the area.
“I’m not trying to kick anybody out of this beach,” he said. “If you come over here with bad intentions like swimming with the dolphins or taking pictures of our ice box, then we have to hold people accountable.” Souza refers to the ocean as an icebox.
Makua Beach is a resting place for Hawaii’s spinner dolphins, which has been a destination for beachgoers and boat tours for decades. The dolphins had become a popular tourist attraction and prompted residents to raise concerns that the influx of visitors was getting out of hand.
A sign at the entrance to the beach cites federal law stating that no one is allowed within 50 yards of the dolphins, noting that such activity is harmful to their health. So far, no one has been cited for coming within 50 yards of the dolphins, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
However, Souza said he’s seen many people ignoring that sign. And although Souza and his wife, Kawehionalani, have warned visitors about swimming with the dolphins, they said people do it anyway.
Souza said he remembered the altercation with Silge and said he’d seen two beachgoers with a paddle board and he asked them if they were going to swim with the dolphins. According to Souza, the beachgoers said they didn’t care if they were going near the dolphins, so he asked them to leave. But they didn’t, and that’s when, Souza said, Silge came out of her car yelling at him.
Souza’s wife, Kawehionalani, said Silge escalated the situation because she came out of her car to yell at them.
“I think it could have been communicated better,” Kawehionalani Souza said. “If she didn’t come off that way, we could have communicated with her, but we didn’t even have the chance.”
Souza told Civil Beat he’s staying put at Makua Beach.
He currently has pending charges for harassment and second-degree terroristic threats, 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 that Souza was charged on Nov. 11 for harassment and threatening to physically harm a woman. Honolulu prosecutors say more details of his case won’t be released until later.
Some residents say they are frustrated about how the situation is being handled.
Makua Beach is a state beach managed by the Department of Land of Natural Resources.
In Hawaii, it’s illegal to block access to a public beach. However, Souza hasn’t been charged for violating that law or cited by DLNR.
“Mr. Souza has no citations from DOCARE. It does not appear Mr. Souza is on state lands; therefore, jurisdiction falls under HPD,” DLNR spokesperson Madison Rice said in an email.
When asked if Souza had broken the public beach access law, DLNR didn’t respond.
But HPD spokesperson Michelle Yu said the police department can only deal with Souza’s harassment and terroristic threatening charges.
“Makua Beach Park is a state park, not a city park,” Yu said in an email. “The park has multiple side access roads and some cattle gates, and these are maintained by the DLNR. When the DLNR says that ‘jurisdiction falls under HPD,’ they may be referring to the two pending cases as the DLNR does not conduct harassment or terroristic threatening investigations.”
Residents who are concerned about the situation shared copies of an email exchange they’d received between HPD Sgt. Fumikazu Muraoka and city officials after officers checked on Souza on Nov. 15.
Souza recorded the meeting with officers, telling them that the people he told to leave were foreigners bothering the dolphins and that no U.S. laws apply to him.
“There were several beach visitors present when we arrived, so it seems he changed his tune a bit since last week,” Muraoka said in the email. “It seems some days he’s OK, but others more aggressive based on word from those who have spoken to him in the recent past.”
“He stated he did not receive any notice of a court appearance yet, not sure if notification will be in the near future or if he is just denying it,” Muraoka continued.
Richard Wallsgrove, assistant professor at the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, said there is a penalty for obstructing access to a state park, which is public.
“It sounds to me like this is an issue that’s so loaded with a whole bunch of historical and cultural nuance,” Wallsgrove said. “I see that same question about jurisdiction because I think counties are generally responsible for beach access issues, but that beach in particular and the parking of that beach is a state park.”