Eyewitness: A break in the govt's case against Thomas Siaumau
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The key witness in the government’s case against Thomas Siaumau — accused of shooting at a police vehicle while a police officer was inside — told the jury that it was Siaumau and his nephew who shot the police vehicle at the back of the baseball field in Tafuna on the night of Dec. 14, 2017
“I saw Thomas aim his gun at the police vehicle and then shoot… twice. I also saw T.L (defendant’s nephew) aim his gun at the police vehicle and… shoot. After they fired shots at the vehicle, they were both yelling and laughing.”
These were the words of the prosecution’s only eyewitness when he testified under oath Monday afternoon during Day Five of the Siaumau trial.
Altogether, the government called six witnesses to testify on Monday: two government employees, one police officer, two juveniles, and the key witness, a 23-year-old male who used to live with the defendant’s family.
The key witness was brought into court under heavy police security and immediately after he testified, he was escorted back to the location where he is under the protection and care of the government.
The key witness, hereinafter known as J.M., told the jury that immediately after he gave his statement to authorities the morning after the alleged incident, he was taken by police and placed in a secure area where he has had no communication with anyone, including his family and the defendant’s family.
During his testimony, J.M. pointed to and identified Siaumau, who was sitting on the right side of the defense table, wearing a long sleeve white t-shirt. He told jurors that he knows Siaumau very well because he used to live with them.
On the night of the alleged incident, Dec.14, 2017, J.M. was at his home in Petesa. Around 8:30pm, he left his house and went to hang out with friends, who were drinking beer at the back of Siaumau’s family land, located at the corner of the fence that separates the land from the baseball field.
J.M. told the jury that when he arrived at the drinking session, Siaumau was already there, along with his nephew and others. They were all drinking beer.
According to J.M., it was around 9pm when Siaumau and J.L. left the grounds and headed in the direction of the baseball field.
A few moments after Siaumau and J.L. left, "We heard multiple gunshots being fired," J.M. told jurors. He said he walked to the area where the gunshots came from, to see who it was.
"When I came close to the fence behind the baseball field, I saw Thomas and T.L. each holding firearms and they were both yelling and shouting,” J.M. testified.
“Did they both have guns?” Prosecutor Christy Dunn asked. J.M. replied, “Yes, Thomas was holding a long rifle while J.L was holding a hand gun.”
Moments after the gunshots were fired, a police vehicle came to the back of the baseball field and the lights on top of the vehicle were on, according to J.M.'s testimony.
He said the police unit went to the other side and was trying to turn back in the direction where it came. According to J.M., it was during that time that he saw Thomas and J.L. pointing their guns towards the police unit and shooting at it.
Dunn asked the witness whether he saw Siaumau shooting at anything after he shot the police vehicle. The witness replied, “No.”
The witness told jurors that he was standing behind the fence that separates the Siaumau family land and the baseball field, while Thomas and T.L. were standing on the other side of the field, close to the location of the netball field.
During cross examination, defense attorney Richard deSaulles asked the witness if he ever had a chance to speak to any of the government’s attorneys. The witness said, no. He only spoke to police officers.
deSaulles asked J.M. if he was still living in Petesa, since the alleged incident. The witness said no, he is now under the government’s witness protection.
“What is witness protection?” deSaulles asked. “Witness protection is when police are feeding me and taking good care of me at a special location,” said J.M.
deSaulles asked the witness whether he asked police to feed him and care for him, the witness said no. It was after he made his statement to police at the Tafuna substation that police took him under their care.
“Did you actually see T.L. with a gun that night?” deSaulles asked. J.M replied, “Yes.”
“Was there anytime you told police that you don’t want to testify in this case?” deSaulles asked. J.M replied, “Yes, it was during the time when I first saw my stepmother, and that’s why I told police I changed my mind because she was worried about me and my safety.”
deSaulles told the witness to explain to the jury what they did at the Siaumau family land on the night of the alleged incident. J.M told jurors it was Thomas who bought a case of beer for them that night, and they all drank it.
After the alleged shooting of the police vehicle, the witness said he went back to the area where his friends were, and continued on with their party. Around 10pm that night, he went home and slept.
deSaulles asked J.M. if he remembers sleeping on the floor in front of their house the night after the party. The witness replied, “No.”
In redirect, the government attorney asked the witness if his stepmother ever tried to convince him to change his testimony about this case.
J.M. said no, she did not want him to testify.
Other government witnesses called to the stand included the director of the Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Kenneth Tupua, who confirmed to the jury that two light poles inside the baseball field were damaged during the incident, and it cost the government $12,800 to fix them.
Another witness was Epenesa Iakopo, a mechanic for the Dept. of Public Safety (DPS).
During his testimony, Iakopo told the jury that it was discovered during his evaluation of the police vehicle that was damaged in the alleged incident, that it will cost DPS over $1,000 to replace the two windows that were shattered in the shooting.
Two juveniles (14-year-olds) testified that they heard gunshots being fired around 9pm at the back of the baseball field but they did not see anybody.
Both witnesses were 12 years old when the alleged incident occurred. They both stated during their testimonies that after they heard multiple gunshots, they immediately ran to the front side of Tafuna Elementary School for safety. Both also stated that they did not see the person who fired the shots, whether it was a male or female.
The trial resumes at 9am today.