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From prep football to prison, gang life led to destructive path

Published: Monday, April 21 2014 6:00 p.m. MDT

Siale Angilau, 25, was shot and killed in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 21, 2014, after he lunged at a witness testifying against him during his trial in federal court. The former East High football player was involved in gang activity, which led him on a path to prison. (Utah Department of Corrections) Siale Angilau, 25, was shot and killed in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 21, 2014, after he lunged at a witness testifying against him during his trial in federal court. The former East High football player was involved in gang activity, which led him on a path to prison. (Utah Department of Corrections)

SALT LAKE CITY — Siale Angilau wore number 65 as an all-region football player at East High School in 2005. Two years later, the Utah State Prison listed him as inmate number 173338.

A Tongan Crip Gang member known on the street as "C-Down," Angilau was involved in a string of often violent crimes from robbery to attempted murder in the Salt Lake Valley dating back to 2002, according to court records.

In 2010, he and 16 fellow TCG members were indicted in federal court under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Charges included racketeering, robbery, carjacking, assault on a federal officer and weapons violations. Prosecutors say RICO is a powerful tool for disrupting and dismantling gang activity.

Angilau, 25, was the last one to go to trial. Testimony had started Monday when Angilau attacked a fellow gang member on the witnesses stand and was shot to death in the courtroom by a deputy U.S. marshal.

Siale Angilau, 25, was shot and killed in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 21, 2014, after he lunged at a witness testifying against him during his trial in federal court. The former East High football player was involved in gang activity, which led him on a path to prison. (Utah Department of Corrections) Siale Angilau, 25, was shot and killed in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 21, 2014, after he lunged at a witness testifying against him during his trial in federal court. The former East High football player was involved in gang activity, which led him on a path to prison. (Utah Department of Corrections)

Seven defendants were tried in a case that ended in 2011. All were convicted and Eric Kamahele, whom authorities pegged as the ringleader, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

As a senior in 2005, Angilau received honorable mention on the All-Region 6 football team as a noseguard for an East High squad that lost in the state semifinals.

Aaron Whitehead, East's head coach at the time, described Angilau as a coachable and likeable young man.

"He was a great kid. When he played for us, he worked hard to become a better football player and he obeyed our team rules. He was a great member of that team," he said.

The coach was aware of the path his former player followed since high school and said he was heartbroken for his family. He remembered Angilau's mother being supportive of her son on the field.

Whitehead learned about the shooting between classes Monday.

"There's consequences for our actions. It's just sad that it led him to that point," he said.

A year out of high school, state and federal prosecutors charged Angilau with what would be litany of crimes over the next three years, including attempted aggravated murder, robbery and theft.

In 2007, he was charged in connection with the shooting of two deputy U.S. marshals. He pleaded guilty in state court to obstruction of justice and failure to stop at the command of an officer. Prosecutors dismissed the attempted murder charge as part of a plea deal.

Angilau and three others were indicted for 12 violent robberies between July 2007 and March 2008, among them at least one former high school teammate. They held up fast-food restaurants and stores across the valley using aggressive, takeover-style tactics, police said. During one robbery for beer at a 7-Eleven, a clerk was shot and critically injured.

Court records show that Angilau robbed 7-Eleven stores in 2004, 2006 and 2007.

Outside the courthouse Monday, a woman who said she was scheduled to testify against Angilau, right after the witness who was attacked, said she was now frightened about testifying.

"I'm just scared that someone, a witness, was attempted to be stabbed with a pencil … so I'm just real nervous right now," she said.

The woman, who did not want to give her name, said she was also working at a 7-Eleven several years ago when Angilau and another man robbed them. The other employee was injured during the robbery, she said.

"They were very violent. It was very violent. They did harm her," she said. "They were very, very violent, very scary guys."

Angilau had been in prison since September 2007 and was released to the custody of U.S. marshals last Friday in advance of his trial.

Attorney James A. Valdez represented Angilau in the 2007 case in state court.

"It seems to me the guy wasn't a bad guy to deal with. I've had clients I wouldn't want to be in the same room with, but it seems to me like he wasn't one of them," he said.

Angilau's demeanor on the street paints a different picture.

According to court documents, Angilau and another TCG member robbed a 7-Eleven on the night of Dec. 30, 2002, and assaulted a clerk, and then did the same thing at another 7-Eleven a couple of hours later early on Dec. 31.

Sandra Keyser, who is now retired and lives in Florida, was one of the clerks who was assaulted. She was working at the 7-Eleven near Liberty Park at the time. She was in the courthouse on Monday, waiting her turn to be called to testify, when the shooting occurred.

She said she believed Angilau was 14 at the time he robbed her store.

"He started out his career by robbing stores and he assaulted me, punching me in the face at the time he did that robbery. And that was the beginning of his career," she said.

"He wasn't going to change. He just got worse."

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