|This is the moment a defendant was shot dead in court after trying to stab a witness with a pen (Picture: US Government)|
This is the dramatic moment a gang member defendant in a racketeering trial grabbed a pen and launched at a witness before he was shot dead by a marshal.
The footage shows Siale Angilau, a member of the Tongan Crips gang, calmly rising from his seat beside his attorney during the witness testimony and grabbing his lawyer’s pen in 2014.
Someone can be heard yelling ‘whoa, whoa, whoa’ as Angilau sprints toward the witness and leaped with his right arm cocked overhead with the pen in hand. The witness, another gang member who was shackled and chained, jumped back to avoid being hit as Angilau fell feet-first over the front of the witness stand. He was not hurt.
The video then shows a deputy US marshal, identified as Jane Doe, pull her gun and fire four shots at Angilau. Another officer can be heard shouting ‘drop the pen, drop the pen out of your hand’.
The 24-second footage was from a gang-related racketeering trial in 2014 and was released after a media coalition argued it was a public record in an important police use-of-force case.
The unidentified US marshal was cleared of any wrongdoing shortly after the shooting. Lynzey Donahue, a spokeswoman for the Marshals Service, said in a statement the video ‘demonstrates how quickly violence can erupt, in any situation.’
She said the FBI cleared the officer of any wrongdoing and that a review board found the use of force was within agency policy.
Donahue also pointed to a ruling Friday from US District Judge John Dowdell when he dismissed the Angilau’s family’s wrongful death suit, citing the video as proof that the US marshal acted reasonably. The family argued Angilau only had a pen and the four shots fired were excessive.
Dowdell wrote: ‘Having carefully reviewed the video of Mr. Angilau’s swift flight from counsel table, his vault over the witness stand with pen in hand, and his attempt to violently attack the shackled witness, the court has little difficulty determining that (Jane) Doe’s use of force to immediately stop Angilau’s attack was objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.’
The Angilau family attorney, Bob Skyes, offers a contradictory point of view. He said the video shows that the marshal ‘panicked’ and should have used other methods to subdue Angilau.
He points out that Angilau was already down on the ground for the final three shots and that a courtroom full of officers could have stopped him to stop him before he harmed anyone with the pen.
Mr Sykes said: ‘There was no need to use deadly force. They weren’t entitled to use the death penalty on him for an assault.’
Sykes said the Angilau family hasn’t decided if they’ll appeal the ruling throwing out the wrongful death lawsuit.
Angilau was one of 17 people named in a 2010 indictment accusing Tongan Crip members of assault, conspiracy, robbery and weapons offenses. He was the last defendant in the case to stand trial, with previous defendants being sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison.
A mistrial was declared after the shooting. The Department of Justice wanted the video kept under seal over concerns it could lead to retaliatory gang violence.
The media coalition including the AP fought for several years with government attorneys to have the video released publicly, arguing that the shooting raised questions about police use of force and upholding the principle of open courts.
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