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Video released: US Marshal fatally shoots defendant as he lunges at witness in UT courtroom

A scene inside the Utah courtroom in 2014. Video was just recently released. (YouTube)
March 16, 2018

Controversial video inside a Utah federal courthouse was released Monday that captures a U.S. Marshal opening fire and killing a defendant.

During a 2014 gang-related racketeering trial, an unshackled defendant, Siale Angilau, 25 and a member of the Tongan Crip gang, stood up, took his attorney’s pen, went across the courtroom and lunged at the witness in the stand.

Clutching the pen with his hand above his head, Angilau swung at the shackled defenseless witness.

The witness backed up from Angilau to avoid injury, and Angilau fell over the witness stand.

The U.S. Marshal reached for his weapon and fired four close-range shots at Angilau, ultimately killing him.

Plainclothed police officers rushed the witness stand while Angilau’s defense attorney sought refuge under a desk.

The bailiff sealed the entrance and ordered the courtroom to remain seated.

U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell was ushered out of the courtroom.

The dramatic scene is captured on a 24-second video that the Department of Justice hadn’t wanted released for fears of retaliation from the gang.

CBS affiliate KUTV and The Associated Press contended the video was a public record and clearly shows police use of force.

The FBI cleared the officer of any wrongdoing and a review board found the use of force was within agency policy, Lynzey Donahue, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service, said in a statement.

Angilau’s family filed a wrongful death suit that was dismissed Friday by U.S. District Judge John Dowdell, who maintained that the U.S. Marshal acted reasonably and cited the video as evidence of that.

Angilau’s family contends that the U.S. Marshal’s use of force was excessive, since Angilau only had a pen.

“Having carefully reviewed the video of Mr. Angilau’s swift flight from counsel table, his vault over the witness stand with pen in hand, and his attempt to violently attack the shackled witness, the court has little difficulty determining that the U.S. Marshal’s use of force to immediately stop Angilau’s attack was objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances,” Dowdell determined.

Bob Skyes, the attorney representing the Angilau family, said the marshal “panicked” and should have used other methods to subdue Angilau, since he fell to the ground and was defenseless after the first shot and there was a courtroom filled with police officers.

“There was no need to use deadly force. They weren’t entitled to use the death penalty on him for an assault,” Sykes said.

You can view the video here: