SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Weeks after he died in a court marshal’s gunfire as he rushed a witness at a federal courthouse, friends and family are recalling 25-year-old Siale Angilau as a loving son and protective brother.
About 130 people gathered Wednesday on the steps of the Salt Lake City federal courthouse. His death, some said, has bound members of Utah’s Tongan community closer.
“We cry out for justice and even admit to aching for revenge,” said Ti Kinikini, adviser for the University of Utah Center for Ethnic Students, who urged non-violence. “We must take the hands of our children, our elders, our neighbors.”
Angilau was the last to go to trial among 17 people identified by federal prosecutors as a member of the Tongan Crip Gang. Prosecutors say the gang has murdered, robbed and assaulted to expand its operation in the Salt Lake Valley over two decades, reported the Deseret News.
Angilau grabbed a pen and lunged at a witness on April 21. He was shot by a U.S. marshal and later died at a hospital.
Members of Salt Lake City’s Tongan community say they are still searching for answers over why the 25-year-old’s life ended in what they deemed excessive force. Charges against him stemmed from racial profiling, they said.
Federal investigators have not released any other details about the shooting. FBI spokesman William Facer told the Salt Lake Tribune in a statement on Tuesday that the agency plans to say more in coming weeks.
“We don’t want them to brush this under the rug like nothing happened,” community organizer Dee Tuakalau said. “His family deserves answers. That’s the only way they’ll be able to mourn properly.”
Friends and family have organized the Raise Your Pen Coalition to tell their side of the story for Angilau and Tongans in Utah. The group has hosted a vigil and is planning a march later this month.
Another organizer, Inoke Hafoka, said he didn’t see what pulled the former prep football player Angilau from a life centered on school and sports, but believes societal stereotypes affected the boy at a young age, changing his path.
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