Gang member shot, killed after lunging at court witness
Matt Powers, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — A gang member on trial in federal court was shot and killed Monday by U.S. marshals after he attempted to attack a witness testifying against him.
"The defendant went after (a witness) and when he engaged the witness at the witness stand, he was shot by the U.S. Marshals Service," said Mark Dressen the FBI's assistant special agent-in-charge for the Utah bureau.
"From what I understand, the defendant may have grabbed a pen or a pencil and charged the witness stand at that time," he said.
Siale Maveni Angilau — aka "C-Down" — was shot multiple times in the chest. He was reportedly still breathing when he was taken away in an ambulance, but he died in the early afternoon at a local hospital.
Oliver Petersen, 27, was seated as juror No. 1 and just a few feet away from the witness when the shooting occurred. He said a prison inmate — either a current or former gang member — was on the witness stand testifying about the daily activities of Tongan Crip Gang members and giving information such as who their enemies were, when Angilau attacked him.
"He was telling about the secrets and the activities of the TCG gang life. His testimony was going on and on for several minutes. Then, all of a sudden, that's when he was attacked," Petersen said. "I saw the defendant charge over and try to jump over the desk to reach the witness.
"Everything happened so quickly."
The marshal who was standing between the jury box and the witness stand took a step back as he drew his weapon, Petersen said, and then fired three to five shots from close distance at Angliau.
"After the marshal fired, he told everyone to stay down. And he kept his gun pointed at Siale because he was still alive as he went down," the juror said.
Perry Cardwell and his daughter, Sarah Jacobsen, were also in the courtroom.
"The witness was speaking about his gang life and how all that happened and came to be. And something must have upset the defendant and he just ran up and jumped over the witness stand to attack him," Jacobsen said. "It happened so fast that I'm not sure if he actually did get to attack him. But one of the servicemen was so fast with reflexes that he defended him."
Jacobsen also counted as many as five shots.
"(Angilau) just got up, ran up there, and looked like he probably got a hit in, right when he got shot," added Cardwell.
Defendants are typically not handcuffed or put in leg shackles while on trial so a jury won't be prejudiced by their appearance.
Angilau fell to the ground behind the witness stand after he was shot.
Dressen did not comment on how many shots were fired, how many times Angilau was hit, or if there were any stray bullets that ended up in the walls or ceiling of the new courtroom.
Cardwell said other marshals in the courtroom yelled, "Get down!" to people in the audience, while others yelled multiple times at Angilau, "Stop!"
"There was no way to break up that fight," he said. "I think (the shooting) was warranted because I don't see how you could break up that fight that was happening. So I do believe he did the right thing."
The shooting occurred inside Judge Tena Campbell's court on the eighth floor during a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act trial involving the member of the Tongan Crip Gang.
After the shooting, Campbell was escorted out of the courtroom followed by the jury. Petersen said jurors waited in the jury room for several minutes before Campbell walked in and talked to them.
"She reassured us, made us feel a little bit better about what we saw. She said she had been serving for 19 years and had never seen anything like this happen. And she told us if we need any counseling, that will be offered for us," he said.
Before Angilau died, Campbell declared a mistrial.
"After the shooting, a group of marshals continued to hold Mr. Angilau at gunpoint near the jury box while the jurors were still present in the courtroom. The court has met with the jury and observed that most of the jury members are visibly shaken and upset by this episode," Campbell wrote in her order Monday.
"The court finds that this occurrence in the courtroom would so prejudice Mr. Angilau as to deprive him of a fair trial."
Angilau's mother was reportedly in the courtroom at the time of the shooting, according to Cardwell.
"Part of me is like, 'He gets what he deserves.' And the other half is like, "It's just senseless. Why would he do that? It's just so stupid,'" he said.
Angilau's trial started Monday morning on charges that included racketeering, robbery, carjacking, assault on a federal officer and weapons violations.
Angliau, 25, had been in prison since September 2007 on a probation violation. In March 2008, he was convicted of obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, and failure to stop at the command of an officer, a third-degree felony. He was released to the custody of U.S. marshals last Friday in advance of his trial.
Sandra Keyser was waiting in the courthouse to testify in the case against him, but did not see the shooting. "I heard a lot of shots, I heard a lot of feet running around. I heard a woman kind of crying and screaming. Then I heard, 'Call 911.'"
Angilau was the last of more than a dozen TCG members to stand trial in the ongoing case, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. In 2011, a jury convicted seven TCG members after a weekslong trial.
Convicted in the case were Eric Kamahele, 24, aka "Smooth"; Mataika Tuai, 22, aka "Fish"; David Kamoto, 24, aka "D-Down"; Daniel Maumau, 25, aka "D-Loc"; Kepa Maumau, 24, aka "Kap-Loc"; and Sitamipa Toki, 28, aka "Tok-Loc." The jury acquitted David Walsh, 32, aka "D-Nutt."
Their crimes included robberies, assaults and use of firearms during crimes of violence committed in support of an ongoing criminal organization.
Jurors at the time feared retaliation and wanted assurances from the judge that they would be safe. A note from a juror asking for such assurances nearly caused a mistrial in the case.
The seven men were among 17 suspected TCG members indicted in 2010 under RICO, which prosecutors call a powerful tool for dismantling and disrupting street gangs.
Because of the courthouse shooting, officials at the Utah Department of Corrections announced Monday afternoon: "In light of today's events, the Utah State Prison in Draper and the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison have been locked down as a security precaution and thus visitation is suspended until further notice."
The move was done for the "safety and security of inmates," according to the department.
Yellow police tape continued to surround the plaza hours after the shooting Monday where the entrance to the new courthouse is located. Dressen said the eighth floor would be closed all day. There was no estimate when the rest of the building might be reopened.
"I think the marshals did an exceptional job. They stopped the threat to the witness," Dressen said.
The new 410,000-square-foot building at the corner of 400 South and West Temple opened just a week ago on April 14. It replaced the adjacent Frank E. Moss Courthouse, which was completed in 1905 and hadn't had any major additions or renovations in 80 years.
Courthouse shootings in Utah are rare. Perhaps the most well-known incident happened in 1985 when Ronnie Lee Gardner shot and killed defense attorney Michael Burdell and wounded bailiff George "Nick" Kirk during an escape attempt at the Metropolitan Hall of Justice. Gardner was executed for those crimes in 2010.
A retired police officer in Wheeling, W.V., was shot and killed Oct. 9, 2013, after he opened fire at a federal courthouse. In 2010, a gunman opened fire in the lobby of the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas. Stanley Cooper, a 72-year-old security officer, was killed by a shotgun blast to the head. A deputy U.S. marshal survived after being shot in the arm, chest and head. The gunman was killed.
In general, courthouse violence has steadily increased, despite tighter security being implemented across the country. At the federal level, the U.S. Marshals Service's Center for Judicial Security reports the number of judicial threat investigations has increased from 592 cases in fiscal year 2003 to 1,258 cases by the end of fiscal year 2011.
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