Family of hit-and-run suspect says he is not a "monster"

By Jill Kuramoto
Published On: Mar 29 2012 01:07:09 PM HST
Updated On: Mar 30 2012 03:45:07 PM HST

A relative of a man arrested after a crash killed a 3-year-old boy speaks out.

MAKAHA, Hawaii -

Potasi Sui Uta, Junior was heading home to Waianae when police said he slammed into the bus stop on Farrington Highway and Kili Dr.,  killing 3-year-old Ashton Brown.

He was apparently with other family members Wednesday night before the crash.

Thursday morning, his family was baffled as to why "Junior," as they called him, got behind the wheel when his family said he had been drinking.

"My cousin was supposed to jump in with him to drive him home, but he left. He was gone. They don't know why he didn't stay," said Chantel Garcia, Uta's niece.

According to court records, Uta had been convicted for driving under the influence in 1986 on Maui.

His family said he was released on parole just two weeks ago after serving time for a burglary conviction in 2004.

They say he had just got a job and a drivers license, and was happy to be getting his life back together. But now this.

A growing memorial at the site of the broken bus stop was an indication of how this tragedy has touched a community. But among those feeling the pain is Uta's family.

"We're so sorry. Unfortunately this happened, but he's not a monster who goes out and drives drunk.  It's not supposed to happen, but it did," said Garcia crying.

Uta has eight children and four grandchildren around the same age as Ashton Brown.  His family said he spoke with one family member, who said he was remorseful.

"He's in shock. He has his own grandchildren that this could have happened to. We don't know what else to say but that we're sorry. His family knows and deep from our hearts, we are so sorry," said Garcia.

Uta was arrested under suspicion of negligent homicide and driving under the influence.

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