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No known motive for alleged machete assault in Tafuna

American Samoa District Court building
Suspect reportedly used the flat side of a machete to strike another man

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man accused of being armed with a machete when he assaulted another man in front of a Tafuna store last week was arrested and later detained at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).

Ioelu Tulaga Jr, 42, made his initial appearance in District Court last week. He is represented by Assistant Public Defender Bob Stuart, while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.

Tulaga is charged with second degree assault and unlawful possession of methamphetamine, both felonies, along with two misdemeanors: public peace disturbance (PPD), and being armed with a deadly weapon.

Tulaga has been remanded back to custody, on a ‘no bail’ status. His preliminary examination is Oct. 2.

During last week’s court proceedings, defense attorney Stuart asked to set bail for his client, saying this is Tulaga’s first appearance in court and the victim didn’t sustain any serious injuries. He said his client is a hard working family man and his mother really needs him to come home.

Prosecutor Garvey disagreed, arguing that Tulaga’s actions could have caused serious injuries not only to the victim but also to others who tried to help the victim. The court agreed and denied the defense motion for bail, saying the defendant is a danger to the community and also to his own family.


On the evening of Sept. 25th a female contacted the Tafuna Substation to report an assault in front of Jin’s Store in Tafuna. The caller claimed that a man assaulted another man by punching him in the face and then striking his back with the flat side of a machete.

The caller went on to say that the suspect was walking on the road in front of the store with a machete in hand, while a crowd of people stood by and watched in fear.

Cops arrived at the scene and were directed to where the victim was. The victim told police that after he paid for his shopping and was about to leave the store, he heard people screaming from outside but he didn’t know what the commotion was about.

He said that as he was making his way home, he saw a man approaching the store, armed with a machete . The man was later identified as Tulaga, the defendant. The victim told police he immediately yelled out to the people who were outside the store, to run before they get hurt by the defendant.

According to the government, everyone that was present ran for their lives, except for the victim, who couldn’t move as fast because of a knee injury. Tulaga caught up to the victim in front of the store. The government alleges that Tulaga lifted the machete, which was in his left hand; but instead of swinging the machete at the victim, Tulaga swung his right hand and punched the victim in the face, causing the man to fall to the ground.

Tulaga then allegedly used the flat side of the machete to strike the victim’s back while he was on the ground, in addition to punching him in the face multiple times. The victim said he tried his best to get away from the defendant but Tulaga was too strong and was able to hold him down.

A male who was standing at the back of the store saw the assault and headed to the front to render assistance to the victim. When Tulaga saw the man approaching him, he walked towards the man, while still holding the machete. Out of fear, the man said he walked to the other side of the store parking lot, jumped in his car and locked it, fearing Tulaga might hurt him.

Two other men arrived at the scene, chased Tulaga away, and offered their help to the victim who was - at this time - still lying on the ground. Tulaga left the store and headed to his nearby home.

Tulaga was inside his house with his wife, their two young children, and his elderly father when cops arrived. Officers observed Tulaga’s mother crying while he held her next to him. He was also holding and squeezing his father’s arms.

When instructed by police to release his mother and come out of the house, Tulaga started to become disorderly and hostile. Tulaga was eventually subdued and transported to the police station for questioning. He refused to provide a written statement to police.

Meanwhile, the victim was transported to the LBJ Hospital by EMS personnel where he was treated and later discharged. The victim suffered a cut on his right eye, and bruises all over his face. His back was also bruised.