fallen folk heroes

Meet Kai, the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker: Viral-Video Star, Murder Suspect, Fugitive

New Jersey authorities are hunting for Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, a “homefree” 34-year-old who achieved Internet fame two months ago as “Kai, the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker.” In his viral video, Kai tells a Fresno news reporter about saving an innocent woman from a violent attack at the hands of a delusional racist. He saved the woman by bludgeoning the man with a hatchet.

Kai is now wanted for the murder of Joseph Galfy Jr., who died of blunt-force trauma in Union County, New Jersey, on May 13. Charged with homicide, Kai’s bail has been set at $3 million. ABC7 News reports that Kai was last seen at a Haddonfield light rail station and is believed to have disguised himself by cutting his hair.

Back in February, Kai was hitchhiking through Fresno when the driver of the car that had picked him up drove the vehicle into an electric worker, pinning the worker against a truck. Two women rushed to help the electric worker; the driver jumped out of the car, yelled the N-word, and attacked one of the women. Kai jumped out of the car and saved the woman with an over-the-head “SMASH! SMASH! Suh-MASH!” hatchet attack. In a local news report, a peace-sign-bandana-wearing Kai described how the 300-pound driver confessed to raping a 14-year-old and claimed he was Jesus Christ. His stoner inflection and dramatic storytelling turned him into a folk hero. He appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Kai’s viral video is above; partial transcript below.

Reporter: Can I talk to you? Do you mind?

Kai: [Gestures to indicate ‘why not?’] What do you want to talk about?

Reporter: What happened today.

Kai: Well, went straight out of Dogtown. Skateboarding! Surfing it up! Before I say anything else, I want to say, no matter what you done, you deserve respect. Even if you make mistakes, you’re lovable, and it doesn’t matter, your looks, age, size, or anything, you’re worthwhile. No one can ever take that away from you. Now this stuff right here. [Gestures with cigarette in hand.] I was drive — well — I was in the passenger side of this car and he comes over on there. He was over by the recycling and he said [mocking voice] “Oh, when I was in the Virgin Islands, 30 years old on this trip, I fucked this 14-year-old.” I was like, “What?” He was like, “I raped this 14-year-old.” He starts crying. He gives me a big hug. He’s like a fucking 300-pound guy, I’m like, holy shit. He must be fuckered, man, like, what’s he talking about? I didn’t take him seriously at first. He comes driving down this way [points] and is like, [mocking voice] “You know what? I’ve come to realize, I’m Jesus Christ, and I can do anything I fucking want to. And watch this.” BAM! And he smashed into that fucking guy right there! [Points with chin.] Pins him against that fucking truck. And so I fucking, I hop out, I look over, the guy’s pinned there. I mean like, freight-train riders know this, if you get pinned against something, do not fucking move that shit otherwise you’ll bleed out. I mean like, motherfucker, I ran in, I grabbed the keys, he’s sitting there like nothing even happened. I mean, like, man, if you started driving that car around again, man, there woulda been a hell lot of bodies around here. I hope on out, and so I grab the bag, I threw it by that pole right there, and then fucking buddy gets out, these two women are trying to help him, he runs up and grabs one of them, man! Like a guy like that can snap a woman’s neck like a pencil stick! So I fucking ran up behind him with a hatchet [rears back to pantomime wielding hatchet] SMASH! SMASH! Suh-MASH! [pantomimes smashing with hatchet] Ye-ah!

Reporter: The lady said you saved her life.

Kai: She was the one that got grabbed. You know what? [“Hang loose” hand gesture.] Fuck is cool. [Drops hand.] That guy ain’t. [Leans back.] Shiiiit.

Reporter: How did you get in his car?

Kai: I was hitchhiking! [Pleading voice] I was — well — good thing I was hitchhiking! Yeah! People say, “Don’t hitchhiking, this is what happens.” Well, yeah, well. [“No duh” voice.] At least I was here.

Reporter: So he did this on purpose?

Kai: Dude. That guy was fucking kooked out, man. Like, he’s beyond howling [??], like, I don’t even see any breath in him, you know what I’m saying?

Reporter: Can I get your name, where you’re from? If you don’t mind?

Kai: I’m Kai.

Reporter: Spelling?

Kai: Straight out of Dogtown. K-A-I.

Reporter: Do you have a last name?

Kai: No, bro. [Big smile.] I don’t have anything.

In an April interview with Vice, Kai says he was raised in a fundamentalist Christian cult, then escaped to a Native American reservation where he “earned the name Kai after a spirit walk.” He considers “witchcraft” an important philosophical influence, carries voodoo cards, enjoys smoking weed, and has “met a lot of cool people” because of his viral video:

Yeah, it’s been really excellent, I’ve met a lot of cool people who have been reaching out through the internet, mostly contacting me through Facebook, there is about 10,000 messages in my inbox from people all across the country. There’s people from eco communities, there’s people from surfing communities, there’s people from Rainbow Gatherings, who just got classified as a gang by the Obama administration, who have invited me to come and meet with them.

Kai is believed to be “armed and dangerous.” If you know his whereabouts, you can earn $5,000 for a tip that leads to his arrest. More info here.

Viral-Video Hero Flees Murder Charge