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Suspect identified from photo on Facebook

American Samoa District Court

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — On October 31, 2023 at 12:30pm, the Tafuna police Substation received a call from the owner of the Joe Store and Laundromat, reporting that an unknown individual entered the store, assaulted the cashier, and took off with the cash register. 

When police arrived, the owner showed them security footage of the incident, where officers identified what the suspect was wearing  — camouflage pants and hat, white sleeveless t-shirt and brown boots, while also carrying a backpack with a large knife. 

Police officers received a tip that he was last seen running across the road behind the Happy World store. Officers pursued the lead, where they came upon a dry stream a quarter mile from the store, where they observed an empty, damaged cash register abandoned at the stream. 

Officers were unsuccessful in pursuing the suspect via foot and vehicle, but images of the man posted on Facebook, assisted the officers in locating and identifying the individual. 

During the interview with the storeowner, he stated that the suspect entered the store and looked around to buy something. The suspect then walked towards him and threw a bottle of iced coffee at him, hitting him in the head. The suspect grabbed the cash register, yanked it from the counter, and took off running. Luckily, the storeowner did not sustain any visible injuries. 

On the same date at 4:42pm, an anonymous tip came into the TPS reporting that the suspect was at his home. The anonymous tip said that he recognized the suspect through a Facebook post he saw that day. 

Officers then made their way to Aoloau, where the suspect was immediately apprehended and transported to the TPS for further investigation. Suspect was Mirandized upon arriving at the TPS, and agreed to make a statement. 

In his statement, the suspect, Fernando Tauanu’u, stated that he regretted what he did and knew it was wrong. The suspect states that he did it because he was desperate for money to buy alcohol and cigarettes, which was the reason behind his actions.

The suspect also admitted to grabbing a coffee bottle and throwing it at the cashier and admitted to stealing the register and running behind Happy World afterwards. 

Tauanu’u further admitted that when he got to the stream behind Happy World, he opened the cash register and found no money, just receipts, and that he was so angry after finding no cash, he caught a bus to the Aoloau intersection and hitched a ride home from there. 

The defendant was booked and transported to the Tafuna Correctional Facility for a 48-hour confinement period. He is facing two criminal charges — one count of stealing and one count of assault in the third degree.

Bail for Tauanu’u was set at $20,000.