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Cops get a lucky break when traffic stop nets man wanted for year-old assault

American Samoa District Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The driver of a red pick-up truck pulled over by police last month for a traffic violation is also facing charges after he allegedly assaulted a man last year.

Lipea Tulouna made his initial appearance in District Court last month and the government has filed two separate criminal cases against him.

In the first csae, Tulouna is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth) and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, both unclassified felonies, punishable by a imprisonment terms of not less than five nor more than ten years, a fine of up to $20,000 or both.

Bail for this case is set at $5,000

For the second case, the defendant is charged with one count of 2nd degree assault and one count of 1st degree property damage, both class D felonies, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Bail for this case is set at $15,000.


On Nov. 11th, 2021 around 5:04am Vice and Narcotics Unit (VNU) were informed of a matter where Traffic Officers stopped a vehicle and discovered drugs. Furthermore, the driver of the vehicle had an active warrant for his arrest on an earlier assault charge.

VNU detectives responded to the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) to investigate and met up with Traffic Officers who initiated the stop to interview them about what happened.

According to one traffic officer, he and another officer were patrolling in Faleniu area heading west when they observed a red pick-up truck heading eastbound with a broken headlamp and a broken license plate light. They stopped the truck near a store in Faleniu.

The traffic officer told investigators as they approached the driver, they discovered that he was the only occupant in the vehicle and was identified as Lipea Tulouna, the defendant in this matter.

Upon chatting with the driver, officers learned that the driver did not possess his driver’s license nor any form of identification.

Tulouna was instructed by officers to exit the vehicle immediately but Tulouna refused and told officers that he needed to go home to prepare his sick father’s breakfast. As they spoke, Tulouna started his vehicle engine and was about to drive off, but he was instructed by officers to turn off his vehicle engine and step outside of the vehicle. Tulouna complied and exited his vehicle.

As he exited the vehicle, one officer observed what appeared to be a glass pipe containing crystalline substance on the dashboard, along with what appeared to be a hand rolled cigarette lying on the floor under the passenger’s seat. Officers also discovered under the passenger’s seat a cut up straw containing crystalline substance wrapped inside a napkin next to the hand rolled cigarette.

Officers immediately detained Tulouna and placed him inside a police unit. Before Tulouna was place inside the police unit, he was patted down. During the body search, officers discovered two small stamp-sized baggies containing green leafy substance inside his rear pocket.

Also discovered during the body search was a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance, found inside his t-shirt pocket, along with $745 in cash.

Tulouna was transported to the TPS for further investigation and his vehicle was impounded.

Upon arrival at the TPS, discovered items were referred to the VNU for further investigation. On the same date, a VNU officer tested the white crystalline substance and it yielded a positive result for meth. The green leafy substance was also tested and yielded a positive result for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Investigators Mirandized Tulouna and he later agreed to cooperate with investigators, making a verbal and written statement to investigators.

According to his verbal statement, Tulouna said that he went to drop off his uncle in Malaeimi and upon returning home a male individual stopped his vehicle in front of a store in Mesepa and asked him for a ride home. He stated as they were heading westbound in Faleniu police stopped them and his passenger — only known to him by the name of Paolo took off running and left his stuff inside the vehicle.

Before police reached his vehicle, he grabbed other stuff lying on the floor and place it inside his pockets in an effort to hide it from the cops.

When questioned about the reason why he attempted to flee after he was instructed by police officers to exit his vehicle, Tulouna said he doesn’t want to go to jail. He explained that there was an incident he was involved with last year and he knew police were looking for him.

While interviewing the defendant, investigators were informed that there was an arrest warrant for Tulouna from an assault case last year.


According to the government’s case, it was on Nov. 21, 2020 when a woman contacted the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) reporting that a man by the name of Lipea Tulouna was making unreasonable noises around their residence. The caller further stated to police that Lipea was walking around the area with a machete in his hand and calling out to a man by the name of Ricky to come and fight him.

Several police officers responded to the call and met up with the woman who reported the matter sitting in front of her house with her two young children.

While officers were speaking to the reporter, a woman approached the police units where other officers were standing and requested assistance saying Lipea assaulted her husband who was at their house.

Several police officers followed the woman to her house and observed a man (later identified as the victim) lying inside the living room with blood on his body. Officers observed a laceration on the man’s head that was about 4 inches in length.

EMS was contacted right away and the victim was transported to the LBJ Medical Hospital by the EMS crew for further treatment.

When questioned by police after he was treated at the hospital, the victim stated that he was drinking alcohol outside of his house around 6pm that evening when Lipea approached him and asked for a cigarette but he told him he doesn’t have any cigarettes. Lipea left him and continued to the other side of the village.

Not long after, the victim was shocked when someone punched him from behind causing him to fall on the ground. He looked up and saw Lipea standing on top of him with a rock in his right hand. He begged Lipea to please stop assaulting him but Lipea continued to kick his back and throw punches at his facial area.

Lipea allegedly then walked over and grabbed a machete from behind a vehicle parked outside the victim’s house and walked back to the area where the victim was lying. That’s when the victim stood up and ran for his life.

The defendant called out to the victim to come back but the victim continued running to the other side of the village. The defendant turned around and smashed the windshield of the victim’s vehicle parked outside of his house with the machete causing damage to the vehicle.

He yelled out profanities and called out the victim’s name asking him to come fight him like a man.

Several eyewitnesses questioned by police shared the same story of what happened that night.

After questioning everyone involved in this case, police went looking for the defendant, however, the defendant was nowhere to be found.