Vehicle stopped for missing head light — driver reeked of alcohol and passenger arrested for pot
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — On Dec. 14, 2020 about 10:35p.m, several police officers patrolling Nu’uuli heading west near Manu’a’s Store observed a truck heading east with one head lamp working. Police initiated a traffic stop and noticed that not only did the driver have red and watery eyes but a strong odor of alcohol was also detected coming from within the vehicle.
The officer informed the driver of the reason for the vehicle stop and then requested the driver’s license. The driver was later identified as Punefu Kapeli.
The officer who spoke to the driver informed his co-officer regarding the strong odor of alcohol coming from inside the vehicle as well as from the driver’s breath.
The driver was then informed that his vehicle would be impounded at Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) so that a police sergeant could administer a field sobriety test. The driver agreed.
At the same time, officers observed the passenger of the vehicle holding an open beer can. That is when the driver was instructed by police officer to exit the vehicle where he was patted down and placed inside a police unit.
During that time, another police officer observed a half smoked hand rolled cigarette with green leafy substance that appeared to be a marijuana joint and pink paper wrapping a green leafy substance that appeared to be marijuana between the driver and passenger.
The passenger was then instructed by officers to exit the vehicle where he agreed and stepped out of the vehicle and immediately ran away from officers with an unknown container in his hand.
Officers pursued the passenger on foot and subdued and apprehended him a few yards away from the vehicle stop. The passenger was later identified as Isaako Levi, the defendant in this case. Officers were unable to locate or retrieve the unknown container due to poor visibility, the area was dark and there were bushes. Both Levi and Kapeli were transported to the TPS for questioning. The vehicle was also impounded.
A few hours later on the same night, when the vehicle arrived at the TPS, officers were able to conduct an inventory of the vehicle, where officers discovered a white envelope that contained a green leafy substance that appeared to be marijuana inside the armrest between the driver and the passenger seats. Senior police officers were informed about the discovery and detectives of the DPS Vice and Narcotics Unit (VNU) were notified about the alleged illegal drugs.
The VNU tested the green leafy substances found inside the pink wrap and inside the white envelope, which tested positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active compound in the controlled substance marijuana.
Kapeli and Levi were placed in different rooms for interviews, where both were Mirandized, and they both agreed to speak to investigators regarding the incident.
Kapeli told investigators that Levi came to him at his office in Pavaiai, asked him if he (Kapeli) could take him (Levi) to his friend’s house. Kapeli agreed and drove Levi and dropped him at an intersection heading towards the Tongan communities in the Pavaiai area. Kapeli left and then returned to pick Levi up, then they headed east on the Pavaiai public highway.
As Kapeli was driving, Levi took some marijuana from a pink paper and hand rolled it into a marijuana joint. They continued cruising smoking the hand rolled marijuana joint from Levi.
The vehicle was then stopped by police and Kapeli told investigators that the marijuana found inside the vehicle belonged to Levi. Kapeli was later released from custody.
During Levi’s interview, he confirmed Kapeli’s account of the incident, including that the marijuana found inside the vehicle belonged to him, not Kapeli.
Levi was then transported to the Tafuna Correctional Facility (TCF) where he was booked and confined.