SALT LAKE CITY — Valu Angilau knows her son may not come across to many people as a sympathetic figure.
But she still weeps over her son, Siale Angilau, who she believes was “a good boy.”
“He (was) never a bad boy to me. I know that my son is a very good son,” she said Thursday.
Valu Angilau and her daughter were meeting with reporters at the law office of Robert Sykes, who filed a lawsuit on their behalf Thursday, alleging negligence and constitutional violations by the U.S. marshal who fatally shot Siale Angilau at a court hearing in 2014.
The FBI reported that Siale Angilau had picked up a pen and charged toward a witness who had been called to testify against him in federal court on April 21, 2014. A U.S. marshal responding by shooting Siale Angilau, hitting him four times. He died just hours later.
In the lawsuit, Sykes says the marshal’s actions were “particularly unreasonable, reckless and constitutionally excessive.”
“There is nothing more excessive, reckless and conscience-shocking than a federal marshal standing over an individual and shooting him as he lies facedown on a courtroom floor,” the lawsuit states.
The FBI concluded in July 2014 that the four shots fired by the marshal were justified and that there was “no evidence to suggest” that Siale Angilau was shot while on the ground.
Sykes criticized the FBI on Thursday, saying the agency hasn't provided him with “the courtesy of a response” about his clients' concerns. He noted that the FBI has still not publicly released video of the incident or released the name of the female U.S. marshal who fired the shots.
Sykes said Valu Angilau and her family have been allowed to see the video, but also criticized its quality. He said it’s suspicious that the court’s sophisticated cameras couldn’t pick up better quality images, especially considering it was that building’s first day in use.
“The video is of very poor quality and was substantially redacted,” the lawsuit states.
Sykes said he plans to subpoena the video and that he hopes to release it to the media. He said he knows the name of the marshal who shot and killed Siale Angilau, but he doesn’t believe it would be proper to make that public currently.
Valu Angilau said she was disturbed by the video of her son’s death.
“It was terrible," she said.
Valu Angilau added that she fears the marshal was biased against Siale Angilau because he is Polynesian. The marshals could have easily subdued her son by tackling him or deploying a Taser, she said.
“They didn’t even bother to say, ‘Hey, sit down,’” Valu Angilau said.
Tolina Tausinga, Siale Angilau’s sister, said she is frustrated by the lack of information from the authorities who investigated the shooting. But she said her family isn’t giving up on making sure more information comes to light regarding her brother’s death.
“I just want the world to know that when you have something go down in a public place, it should be public,” Tausinga said. “Transparency should be key. We’re not going to stop until we get justice.”
At the time of the hearing, Siale Angilau was the last of 16 Tongan Crip Gang members on trial in a federal case filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The charges in that case included carjacking, robbery, racketeering and assault on a federal officer, among other offenses.
Vaiola Mataele Tenifa, a prison inmate, was on the witness stand at the time of the attack. He was testifying about the gang’s activities. Siale Angilau’s defense attorneys had previously argued against Tenifa being allowed to testify.
Tenifa was not injured in the ordeal.
Sykes claims the marshal who fired her weapon is culpable of negligence as defined under the Federal Tort Claims Act. He also believes Siale Angilau’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights were violated in the shooting and that he suffered a wrongful death.
The federal government and the U.S. marshal are both listed as defendants, as are nine others who are unnamed in the complaint.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, compensation for Siale Angilau’s surviving family members, and reimbursement for attorney fees.