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Family land dispute dispersed after gun fired into the air


Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — On January 12, 2024, the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) received multiple calls from individuals at Faleniu reporting a fight that had broken out over a land dispute. It was revealed that gunshots were fired.

When police officers arrived at the scene in Faleniu, it was quiet and officers observed a mother and her children sitting at the plantation. Officers approached the woman, who introduced herself as Fiapapalagi Su’a, and she made a verbal statement.

Su’a explained that “she was mad when a few boys came over to her land and cut off banana leaves and taro leaves,” and she told them to leave because “they had no business being there.”

The explanation she received from the boys was that “they were instructed to do so.” Upon hearing their explanation, Su’a became angry and told them that they needed to leave because that was her land.

According to the affidavit, “she demanded that if they wanted to use things from her plantation then tell the person that instructed them to come and talk to her.”

It was after that conversation that a fight broke out. Su’a stated that she “could not recall how the fight happened” as things escalated quickly. She stated that the only faces she remembered were those of Lavagia Fruean, Soonafai Mauia, and Kolone Mauia. She also recalled hearing gunshots.

Police officers questioned Su’a about the gunshots and who it was that discharged the gun. She replied, “TJ Mauia”.

Police officers also observed minor scratches on Su’a’s facial area.

When officers spoke with Lavagia Fruean, she stated that she lived a few houses away from Sua’s house. She heard from neighbors that a fight had broken out and drove to the scene to help break up the fight. She further explained that she tried to break up the fight but there were too many people involved. Furthermore, she could not recall how she was injured. Police officers observed scratches on Fruean’s forehead and a bump on her head.

Officers then talked to Soonafai Mauia who said that “she lives in Pavaiai and someone called her about a fight happening down in Faleniu on one of their lands.” When she arrived at the scene, she was shocked to see Su’a “holding a rock in her hand and using it to hit Fruean’s head.”

It was then that she rushed over to save Fruean, however Su’a struck “Fruean’s head again with the same rock she held in her hand.” Therefore, she jumped in to try and break up the fight between the two but her efforts were unsuccessful due to the involvement of too many people trying to break up the fight.

Officers spoke with Kolone Mauia who explained that she received a call from one of her aunts regarding “a fight happening down at one of their lands.” And, when she arrived at the scene, she observed a crowd of people fighting. It was when she saw her older sister, Fruean, that she tried to jump in and save her. As she ran towards Fruean, she witnessed “Su’a hitting Fruean’s head with a rock twice.” She did not know that her sister S. Mauia followed her towards the fight to help break it up. She said that K. Mauia grabbed Su’a with one hand and Fruean with the other but had a hard time separating them as they continued to “throw punches” and “say shady things to each other.”

Officers then interviewed TJ Mauia who stated “when he arrived at the scene, it was uncontrollable with everyone yelling and screaming.” He tried to get to his sisters, L. Fruean, S. Mauia, and K. Mauia, however the crowd was too big. He explained that “no one was listening to him while he was trying to break out people so he could get to his sisters that were in the middle of the fight.”

According to the affidavit, the defendant stated, “he was worried this might not end well because it was escalating really fast, so he grabbed his .38 caliber pistol and discharged it in the air and dispersed the fight.” Afterwards, the crowd scattered and he was able to get to his sisters, telling them to leave.

The defendant further stated that he “apologized to Su’a and her children because it was he who instructed the boys to get banana leaves and taro leaves from their plantation because he knows it's his land but he didn’t think that this would happen.”

Police officers seized the firearm from the defendant.

When arriving at the TPS, Su’a and Fruean were assessed by paramedics, treated, and were released.

Police officers noted in their investigation that it was alleged that Su’a used a rock to hit Fruean’s head twice and sustained minor injuries. Also, TJ Mauia discharged a firearm in the presence of a crowd of people, which alarmed and scared them.

The defendant, TJ Mauia, was charged with the following:

Count 1: Possession of Unlicensed Arms — a class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to one (1) year, a fine of $1000, or both; and,

Count 2: Unlawful Discharge of Arms — a class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to one (1) year, a fine of $1000, or both.

Bail for the defendant was set at $500.

He is an American Samoa national.

It’s unknown at this time if Su’a was charged for her role in the incident.