A video of courtroom drama that shows a U.S. marshal shooting to death a defendant was released by authorities in Salt Lake City on Monday. In 2014, defendant Siale Angilau (25) was facing trial in a federal court when the video recorded him as he rose casually from his seat next to his attorney during proceedings. Grabbing his attorney’s pen, Angilau sprinted toward the witness while wielding the pen like a dagger in his right hand.
Angilau, a member of the Tongan Crip gang, leapt on the witness stand. When the witness jumped back, Angilau fell feet-first in front of the stand. The courtroom was in an uproar in the 24-second video when a U.S. marshal fired four shots at Angilau. The marshal was identified only as “Jane Doe.”
Screams were heard while law enforcement officers dressed in civilian clothes ran toward the witness stand while Angilau’s lawyer hid beneath a desk.
Prosecutors reacted in apparent shock while an officer, who was standing over the wounded Angilau, shouted “Drop the pen. Drop the pen out of your hand!”
When U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell was escorted out of the courtroom, a voice can heard calling 911 at the end of the video.
Last Friday, U.S. District Judge John Dowdell dismissed a wrongful-death suit lodged by Angilau’s family. Judge Dowdell said the video offers proof that the shooting of Angilau was reasonable. For their part, the family argued the four shots fired by the U.S. marshal were excessive. The marshal was cleared of any wrongdoing shortly after the shooting. The Angilau family’s attorney, Bob Skyes, had previously said that the marshal “panicked” when other methods could have been used to subdue Angilau.
Because the Department of Justice wanted the video kept under seal out of a concern for potential retaliation by criminal gangs. The faces of the attorneys, judge and jurors are blurred out in the video.
A 2010 indictment included Angilau among 17 others named in accusations against Tongan Crip members. They were cited for assault, conspiracy, robbery and weapons offenses. Angilau was the last among the persons named in the case to stand trial. Other defendants were sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison.
The Tongan Crip Gang comprises young men Tongan, Samoan and other Pacific Island descent. Utah has one of the largest communities of Polynesians and Americans of Polynesian descent in the US. The Tongan Crip Gan has been committing assaults and robberies in the Salt Lake City area since the late 1980s. Following the model set by the mostly African-American Crips years ago in Inglewood, Calif., the Tongan Crips gang mimics the larger “Crip” culture, which includes wearing blue paraphernalia and viewing red-clad “Bloods” as rivals. Besidese California and Utah, the Tongan Crips have affiliates in Alaska, according to the FBI.
Video of assault:
Audio of assault:
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.