Salt Lake City, UT – Authorities released the dramatic surveillance video from a Utah courtroom in 2014, when a gang member tried to attack a witness on the stand, and was shot dead by a U.S. Marshal (video below).
Siale Angilau, 25, was on trial on April 21, 2014, facing gang-related racketeering charges. Angilau, whose street name was “C-Down,” was one of 17 Tongan Crip members in a 2010 indictment accused of assault, conspiracy, robbery, and weapons offenses.
Court records showed 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 the Deseret News.
The day of the incident, Angilau was the last member of the gang to face trial after the other 16 had already been sentenced to between 10 and 30 years in prison.
In the video, Angilau can be seen rising calmly from his seat, stepping behind his attorney to reach the aisle of the courtroom, then turning to grab a pen off the desk.
A split second later, he bounded forward and lunged at Vaiola Tenifa, another member of the Tongan Crips who was testifying against him.
The video showed Tenifa, dressed in prison stripes, tried to escape out of the witness box as Angilau dove over the side of it, arm in the air, poised to stab him.
As Angilau ran toward Tenifa, a female U.S. Marshal could be seen running from the left side of the courtroom.
In the video, the marshal drew her weapon and fired four shots, just as Angilau landed in the witness box, where Tenifa had been sitting just a second before.
Angilau dropped to the floor, and officers can be heard ordering him to drop the pen, repeatedly, as he lay wounded on the floor of the courtroom.
As the video ended, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell was being escorted out of the courtroom as someone gave instructions to call 911.
Angilau was mortally wounded, according to the Mercury News. A mistrial was declared after the shooting.
The U.S. Marshal, whose name has not been released, was cleared of any wrongdoing, and the shooting was ruled to be justified; however, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) fought to keep the courtroom video from being released, the Mercury News reported.
DoJ had expressed concern about the safety of trial participants with an eye toward retaliatory gang violence. Faces of the judge, attorneys, and jurors were blurred out before the video was released.
U.S. Marshals Service Spokeswoman Lynzey Donahue released a statement that said the video “demonstrates how quickly violence can erupt, in any situation,” The Sun reported.
Angilau’s family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit that criticized the marshal’s response as “panicked.”
“There was no need to use deadly force. They weren’t entitled to use the death penalty on him for an assault,” said Bob Sykes, who was the attorney for Angilau’s family.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge John Dowdell dismissed the lawsuit. He said the video provided proof that the marshal – referred to as “Jane Doe” for the purposes of trial – had acted reasonably, the Mercury News reported.
“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,” Dowdell wrote.
You can see the video of the incident below: