SALT LAKE CITY — An audio recording of a 2014 courthouse shooting released Thursday reveals the frantic moments when a U.S. marshal killed a suspect after he charged a witness during his trial.
In the recording, the man’s testimony is interrupted by sounds of chains rattling and somebody yelling “whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.” Then, four gunshots can be heard.
As a woman screams, someone yells at the suspect not to move and then says, “Drop the pen out of your hands.”
As one person calls 911, a woman continues crying in the background.
Authorities say the victim, Siale Angilau, was shot after he rushed the witness wielding a pen during his racketeering trial, authorities said. Angilau was a member of the Tongan Crip Gang and the witness was a former member.
Federal prosecutors cleared the unidentified marshal of wrongdoing, but Angilau’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/2iL7ZDF) that it obtained the recording from court officials after realizing it had been filed as an exhibit in February as part the lawsuit. The Tribune, The Associated Press and other outlets are part of a media coalition pushing to get the video of the incident unsealed.
Bob Sykes, the lawyer for the Angilau family, said he the audio and the video he has seen show that the marshal shot before using other methods to subdue Angilau.
“I’m sure the marshal panicked and decided to open fire,” Sykes said.
The U.S. Marshals Service said in a statement it can’t comment on the audio due to the pending lawsuit but that its employees take seriously their job of protecting judges, jurors, attorneys and witnesses.
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.
A judge is expected to rule soon about whether to release the video of the shooting.
U.S. Department of Justice lawyer Leah Brownlee said this week in a hearing about the video that giving the video to the media could lead to retaliatory gang violence from Angilau’s gang. Taylor also said it’s “not the media’s job to hold law enforcement accountable” and accused news organizations of wanting to profit from the video.
The media coalition argues that shooting raises questions about police use of force and should be public. The coalition’s attorney, David Reymann, said the video can include pixilated faces of the marshal and jurors. Reymann says the media organizations don’t want the video to “sell newspapers” as Brownlee alleged, but to uphold the principle of open courts.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com