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Vigil draws crowd seeking answers to Utah courthouse shooting

Published June 11, 2014 9:49 pm

Shooting • Siale Angilau was killed on April 21 as he tried to attack a witness, say authorities.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It had been 52 days since Siale Angilau had been shot in the chest several times by a U.S. marshal while on trial in Salt Lake City's federal courthouse.

But Angilau's family — and the Tongan community ­­— haven't found peace. They still have too many unanswered questions about that April 21 day and why the 25-year-old's life ended so violently in what they deemed excessive force.

About 130 people dressed in black and traditional Tongan clothing gathered Wednesday on the steps of the federal courthouse where Angilau was shot to remember the man whose death, they say, has brought their community closer together.

"My mother and father still have no answers," Angilau's sister, Tolina Tausinga, told the crowd. "We need to make change. We need to stop being quiet. ... Racial profiling in Utah needs to be stopped. Our brothers being pinned with RICO needs to stop. But we're not going to act in violence."

Angilau was shot during the first day of testimony at his gang-related RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) trial. Authorities said he tried to attack a witness with a pen or pencil in his hand before shots were fired.

In the nearly two months since the fatal shooting, the FBI has not released any other details about the shooting, including whether the marshal who fired the gun still was on administrative leave. FBI spokesman William Facer said Tuesday in an email that the investigators hope to release more information within a few weeks.

The lack of information has frustrated Angilau's family, and in part has pushed a group of organizers to form the "Raise Your Pen Coalition" ­— a movement intended to unite the Glendale community and give it a platform to discuss issues that affect it. The group also encourages people to "raise their pens" to write and share their life stories, organizers said.

"We want to keep the momentum alive," organizer Dee Tuakalau said. "We don't want them to brush this under the rug like nothing happened. His family deserves answers. That's the only way they'll be able to mourn properly."

The group already has hosted a legal observer training with the American Civil Liberties Union, planned Wednesday's vigil and are planning a "Truth and Justice" march later this month.

"Because of this issue with Siale, it was big news to a lot of people," organizer Inoke Hafoka said. "It hit home to a lot of us in the community. It was decided that something needed to be done. We're not trying to justify some of the actions that [Angilau] made, but we're trying to portray something else that not a lot of people know about. He was a friend. He was a brother. He was a cousin. He was a son."

There were so many good qualities about Angilau that extended far beyond what his mug shot and court records portray, Hafoka and others said. They said he loved his family and would make sure everyone at the table was fed before telling them to just "save the leftovers," one of his sisters recalled during the vigil.

"He had the biggest heart," Tausinga said. "He'd stop everything to help."

Angilau had been identified by federal prosecutors as a member of the Tongan Crip Gang and was among 17 members and associates indicted on racketeering charges in May 2010. Federal prosecutors allege the gang has committed murders, robberies and assaults to expand its operation in the Salt Lake Valley over two decades.

Of the 16 other TCG members indicted in the racketeering case, six defendants took plea deals, six were convicted in a September 2011 trial, two were acquitted and charges were dismissed again two in 2012.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller