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Hit and run bail set at $30K

Lbj hospital sign

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — On January 1, 2024, the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) received a call regarding a hit and run accident in Mesepa, involving a vehicle and a motorcycle.

The suspect — Pati Lafaele, the alleged driver of the vehicle — was arrested and charged with the following:

Count 1: Assault in First Degree — a class A felony punishable by a term of life imprisonment, or a term of years not less than ten (10) and not exceeding thirty (30).

His bail was set at $30,000.

According to the affidavit, at around 6:28 p.m, TPS received a call regarding a hit and run and police officers were dispatched to the scene where they were informed of the color of the vehicle — maroon — at fault, as well as its license plate number.

At the scene, the victim, Larry Samatua was observed lying flat on his stomach on the right side of the road in front of Mesepa LDS church. His motorbike was a few feet away from him, with major damage to its rear.

Police officers further noticed blood from the back of the victim’s head near his neck and he was groaning in pain and unable to move.

According to the affidavit, the police captain and another officer arrived a few minutes later and contacted the reporter of the accident. The reporter revealed the defendant’s name as Pati and that he lives in Faleniu, noting the cement road leading to the LDS church.

The police captain and officer drove up to the road but did not see the suspect’s vehicle.

The EMS arrived later and tended to the victim, eventually transporting him to the LBJ Hospital for treatment.

Police officers at the scene also assisted in locating the suspect. The officers saw a green bus blocking the driveway leading up to another residence up the hill and met up with a male individual who was the bus driver.

The bus driver was asked if he was familiar with a man named Pati who lived around the area. The bus driver pointed to the house up the hill and stated that Pati lived up there and owns a vehicle with the maroon color.

Police then walked up the hill and saw a maroon vehicle (with the same license plate which was reported) parked outside the residence. A woman was seen in the house and was asked to identify herself. She stated her name was Karen Lafaele.

Police informed her that they were looking for Pati, who is a suspect in a hit and run incident. She then explained that Pati is her husband and she had no knowledge to where he had gone.

According to the report, Lafaele said she was at a drinking party with her husband and got into a verbal altercation with him. He demanded the keys to the vehicle and took it from her, then he left her at the party and he went home. She explained that a friend of hers had dropped her off at home from the party.

Police then made their way down the hill and spoke to the bus driver who revealed he had witnessed the accident happen.

He explained that Pati was the driver of the vehicle and had overtaken two other vehicles in front of American Samoa Community College heading west. He caught up to the motorcycle and then struck the backside of the motorcycle causing the motorcyclist to lose balance. The victim was able to gain control of the bike but Pati struck the bike once again, dragging the motorcycle forward. The motorcyclrist then lost control of his bike and landed on the right side of the road.

Police officers went to the store across from where the incident occurred and requested to view the footage of the camera facing the road. Police were able to take the footage from the store of the incident which shows the vehicle striking the motorcycle.

Police also followed up with the victim and spoke to the attending physician who treated him.

The victim, Larry Samatua, sustained an injury to the back of his head and minor cuts and scratches on his arms but was stable and waiting to get an X-Ray screening.

Police officers later contacted the victim’s brother to update him on the progress of the case and discovered that the victim had been discharged from the hospital early morning on January 2, 2024.

(The affidavit does not mention how or when the suspect was apprehended.)

The defendant is identified as a 33-year-old citizen of Samoa.