SALT LAKE CITY — The family of a Utah man killed by a U.S. marshal after he charged a witness during his 2014 racketeering trial sued the federal government and the officer Thursday, saying the shooting was negligent or reckless in the secure courtroom.
Siale Angilau, 25, was shot three times in the back after an initial shot stopped his lunge toward the stand with a pen, his family said in the lawsuit.
Authorities have said Angilau was aggressive and threatening. The marshal was not charged in the shooting and has not been publicly identified.
Angilau’s parents claim the marshal should have known there was no way Angilau had a deadly weapon. With five other marshals in the court room, there were other ways to stop him without shooting him, the lawsuit said.
The U.S. Attorneys Office of Utah declined to comment on the suit. A U.S. Marshals Service spokesman did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.
No one else in the courtroom was hurt, including the witness, described as a fellow gang member who had been testifying about gang initiation.
Angilau was previously accused of firing at two U.S. marshals, though it’s unclear whether the officer who shot him was aware of that, his family said.
The U.S. District Court in Utah has refused to publicly release video of the shooting, citing security concerns, despite requests from media outlets and Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah. Angilau’s family has viewed the footage.
Angilau was one of 17 people named in an indictment accusing Tongan Crip gang members of assault, conspiracy, robbery and weapons offenses.
The gang is composed of young men of Tongan, Samoan and other Pacific Island descent. Utah has one of the country’s largest communities of people of Polynesian descent.
Angilau was accused of robbing convenience stores and assaulting clerks in Salt Lake City and was the final defendant in the case to stand trial. Others had been sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison.
His April 21, 2014, death came a week after the opening of a new $185 million federal courthouse in Salt Lake City next door to the century-old federal facility it replaced.
Defendants usually are not shackled when they appear at trial. Courts have held it’s unfair to defendants for jurors to see them restrained.