Masked man snatches cash register off the counter at Vaitogi store
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man accused of forcibly stealing the cash register from an Asian store in Vaitogi was arrested two hours after the alleged crime was committed. When apprehended by officers, a small stamp sized baggie containing methamphetamine (meth) was found in one of his pockets.
The man, Toeitiiti Petita made his initial appearance in District Court this week.
He is charged with one count of unlawful possession of meth, an unclassified felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five years, nor more than ten years, a fine of not less than $5,000, note more than $20,000, or both; along with one count of robbery in the first degree, a class A felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than ten years nor more than thirty years, and one count of stealing, a class C felony.
Bail is set at $20,000.
Preliminary examination is set for next week.
On June 19, 2021 about 8:45p.m a man from Vaitogi contacted the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) regarding an unknown male who entered his store and forcibly stole the cash register from the store by snatching the register from the counter and a foot pursuit ensured by other employees at the store.
Several police officers responded to the call and met up with a female individual who was allegedly inside the store during the incident. The woman told officers that she was startled when a masked man walked into the store and snatched the cash register from the counter and she pursued him on foot but was unsuccessful in locating him.
She told officers that she yelled out to the suspect to bring back the cash register but he continued to run and got away. She described the suspect as a strong man because he had no problem carrying the cash register while running away. She further stated to police that the register contained US currency, food stamps, store receipts and IOU receipts.
Review of the footage revealed a male individual wearing camouflage shorts, a jean jacket, a cloth covering his face, shades, a cap and white sport shoes.
The footage also showed him walking from the side of the store before entering the store and then fleeing with the cash register.
Several officers searched the whole area in Vaitogi in an effort to locate the suspect or any piece of evidence, which could lead them to their suspect. One hour after the suspect burglarized the store officers who responded to the scene informed the lead investigators about the evidence they had discovered in another area not far away from the store location.
According to the government, a bicycle was located near the brush area and a trail of receipts including food stamps was located near the bushes, but the suspect was not found near the area while police were canvassing the area.
While interviewing bystanders, a man informed investigators that the name of the male individual who was seen riding the bicycle earlier that day was Toeitiiti Petita, the defendant in this matter.
The witness further stated to investigators that Petita’s wife asked him (witness) where Petita was after he left with a bicycle that was the same one found by officers at the location not far from the store.
Several bystanders at the scene also confirmed the man who robbed the store was Petita — matching his attire as seen on the footage. Other bystanders also told investigators that Petita always wore the camouflage shorts that was worn by the suspect in the surveillance footage.
Another eye witness told officers that she allegedly encountered Petita walking in front of the store one hour prior to the burglary.
Two hours after the suspect allegedly burglarized the store in Vaitogi, officers continued to patrol the Vaitogi and Iliili area in an effort to locate their suspect. While officers were on the Vaitogi public highway, they observed a shirtless male wearing camouflage shorts and white shoes matching the attire of the individual on the surveillance footage.
The male individual was immediately apprehended and a large amount of cash including a stamp sized baggie containing white substance was found in his pockets. Officers returned to the scene to allow bystanders to identify the suspect, whereas bystanders at the scene confirmed that the male individual apprehended by officers was Toeitiiti Petita. He was then transported to the TPS for questioning.
Petita was Mirandized and he waived his rights and was willing to answer questions and make a statement but did not wish to provide a voluntary written statement.
According to Petita, he rode his bicycle down to the Asian store, then parked the bicycle in the bushes. He then checked if the area was clear and proceeded to enter the store and snatch the cash register, then fleeing into the bushes afterwards. He further stated that he smashed the cash register against a tree several times to open it. After doing so, he took the money and ditched the cash register in the bushes at an unknown location.
He revealed to investigators that his plan to burglarize the store was to get some money for himself. He said that he wanted to enter the store during a time when no customers were inside so that nobody could identify him.
The property recovered on Petita was later inventoried and total amount of cash was approximately $330 in U.S currency, $16 in food stamps, and store receipts. The property was later given back to the store owner.
The stamp sized baggie containing white crystalline substance was referred to the Vice and Narcotic Unit for further investigation.