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Land dispute escalates to a gun allegedly being pointed at victim’s face

TCF GATE
reporters@samoanews.com

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — On January 20, 2024, at around midnight, a woman called the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) and reported that she heard a gun being discharged around her home.

The suspect was arrested and charged with the following:

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

Count 2: Possession of an Unlicensed Firearm — a class A misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of not more than one (1) year, a fine of not more than $1,000, or both; and,

Count 3: Public Peace Disturbance, a class B misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of not more than six (6) months, a fine of not more than $500, or both.

The defendant’s bail was set at $30,000.

According to the affidavit, a woman heard a gun being discharged near her home and contacted the TPS. Upon receiving the call, police officers were dispatched to Asili to investigate the matter. When police officers arrived at the scene, Mrs. Harmon (victim’s wife) greeted the officers and handed over a handgun claiming it belonged to Kiuga/ Junior A.K.A Noa, Toloai, who allegedly used the weapon to threaten her husband Oscar Harmon.

In addition, Mrs. Harmon stated that from their guesthouse she heard a commotion on the main road. She explained that she witnessed her husband and suspect scuffling with a handgun. Her husband eventually gained control of the gun and threw it away and that is when she retrieved the weapon.

The suspect, after returning home, reappeared with a machete, yelling profanities and allegedly threatening that “I will kill you guys.” The suspect then retreated into his home.

The affidavit further stated that Mrs. Harmon highlighted a two-year ongoing dispute over family land with the suspect and previous incidents, including the suspect cutting down their bananas.

The police officers then examined the gun and noticed the absence of a magazine. Mrs. Harmon informed the police that she found the weapon on the main road. A search of the area revealed four live bullets on the road, which were seized.

The weapon was confiscated and handed to the police officer for further inspection in which he allegedly discovered a spent casing in the gun’s chamber.

Officers then proceeded to the suspect’s home and he admitted to carrying the gun in response to a conflict initiated by the other side of his family.

Mr. Noa was then informed that he would be detained for further investigation.

Attempts to interview the suspect’s wife and son at the scene were unsuccessful due to their apparent distress under the circumstances. Mrs. Noa was briefed on the situation and was informed they could visit the police station at their convenience for statements.

Moreover, the affidavit revealed that during an interview with the woman who reported the crime, she stated that she heard a firearm being discharged while inside her house. Although she did not witness the incident, she called the police for assistance.

While at the scene, another witness stated that he observed the suspect pointing a gun at Mr. Harmon. A scuffle ensued as Mr. Harmon attempted to disarm the suspect, resulting in the gun discharging. The victim eventually gained control of the gun. The witness also mentioned the ongoing dispute over the family land and identified the gun as resembling a .32 handgun.

Another witness, who is the aunt of Mrs. Harmon stated she witnessed the suspect challenging Mr. Harmon to a fight while holding a gun. She explained that the suspect aimed the gun at the victim’s face, leading to a scuffle. The gun discharged, and moments later, the victim gained control of the weapon and tossed the gun away. The aunt then retrieved a part of the gun from the road and discarded it in the nearby river. The description given of the part that was discarded resembled the firearm magazine missing from the gun.

Mr. Harmon (the victim) also provided a statement regarding the incident.

According to the victim, “while parking his truck across from his in-law's house, the suspect approached him and initiated a confrontation by exchanging profanities.

“The suspect then went inside his house and returned with a gun resembling a 9mm.

“In response to the threat, he (Mr. Harmon) called the suspect a sore loser and challenged him to a fist fight. Mr. Noa then handed the gun to his wife and engaged in a physical altercation with him.

The victim also allegedly had to face additional resistance from the suspect’s son.

The affidavit further stated that the suspect was unable to overpower the victim, and then he (Mr. Noa) retrieved the gun from his wife and pointed it directly at the victim’s face. Seizing the opportunity, the victim grabbed the suspect’s hand in an attempt to disarm him and during the struggle the gun was discharged.

The victim managed to gain control of the firearm and tossed it away. Mrs. Harmon retrieved the weapon and held on to it.

When police officers were informed of the involvement of a machete, the suspect denied it.

Mr. Noa was then transported to the police station.

Upon arrival at the police station, the suspect was Mirandized and agreed to provide a statement regarding the incident.

Mr. Noa explained that he had moved from the US with his wife in May of 2023. He was living in his brother’s house, who had passed, and he found the gun in one of the drawers there, and decided to keep it.

He said “disputes over land with the Harmons, led by Noa, the family Chief or Sa’o have been ongoing since his relocation.The suspect clarified that he is an extended family member of the Sa’o.”

On the day of the incident, the suspect acknowledged, “cutting down trees near his outdoor kitchen/ Samoan kitchen.” He said he was unaware of any discontent.

However, he mentioned Mr. Harmon hurling a beer can towards him while accompanied by a group of individuals. He reacted this, retrieving the gun from his room, and “approached Mr. Harmon and uttered a threat.”

A physical altercation ensued, resulting in both individuals on the ground. The gun discharged during the struggle, injuring the suspect’s left pinky finger. Following the incident, Mr. Noa went inside and contacted the police from his cell phone and awaited their arrival.

After Mr. Noa’s interview, EMS personnel arrived to tend to the his injuries. Both knees were covered with bandages, obstructing a clear assessment of the extent of the injuries.

Mr. Noa explained that he sustained these injuries while wrestling on the ground with Mr. Harmon. Subsequently, the suspect was transported to the LBJ via an EMS unit for further examination and treatment.

At the LBJ, an interview with the suspect’s son took place.

According to the son, while he was sleeping, he heard a noise hitting their roof. Shortly after, his father went outside and engaged in an argument with their neighbor, Mr. Harmon.

Upon joining the scene, the son witnessed his father pointing the gun at Mr. Harmon. In an attempt to “de-escalate the situation” the son advised his father to put the gun down and engage in a physical confrontation instead. “The gun was then handed to the suspect’s wife and a fist fight ensued between the father” and Mr. Harmon. Despite his father momentarily regaining control of the gun, Mr. Harmon ultimately managed to wrestle it away.

Police officers confiscated the firearm, 4 live ammunitions, and 1 spent casing.

Injuries sustained by Mr. Noa included an amputated left pinky finger, and abrasions on his knees were treated by an LBJ Doctor.

The victim refused medical treatment to injuries including minor cuts, scrapes and bruises on his knees occurring during the scuffle with the suspect.

On Saturday, January 20, 2024 at around 6:27 am, Mr Noa’s medical treatment concluded at the LBJ Medical Hospital and he was released.

Following his hospital release, he was booked and confined at the Tafuna Correctional Facility where he is held pending issuance of an arrest warrant.