Dramatic video released Monday shows a U.S. marshal firing four times as a defendant in a federal courtroom charges the witness stand and attempts to attack a shackled witness.
The 24-second footage from the 2014 gang-related racketeering trial in Salt Lake City was released after a media coalition including The Associated Press argued it was a public record in an important police use-of-force case.
The video shows defendant Siale Angilau, a 25-year-old member of the Tongan Crip gang, calmly rising from his seat beside his attorney during the witness’s testimony. He grabs his lawyer’s pen.
As someone yells, “whoa, whoa, whoa” but before any officers could react, Angilau sprints toward the witness and leaps onto the stand, wielding the pen with his right arm cocked.
The witness jumps back as Angilau falls feet-first over the front of the witness stand. That’s when the unidentified U.S. marshal shoots Angilau four times.
A woman cries out in horror while other law enforcement officers in suits run toward the witness stand. Angilau’s defense attorney jumps under a desk; prosecutors stand in shock.
“Drop the pen. Drop the pen out of your hand,” yells an officer standing over Angilau.
As U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell is escorted out of the courtroom, someone calls 911 at the end of the released video.
Angilau was fatally wounded in the incident.
The unidentified U.S. marshal was cleared of any wrongdoing shortly after the shooting. Lynzey Donahue, a spokeswoman for the Marshals Service, said the agency plans to issue a statement later Monday.
The Department of Justice wanted the video kept under seal over concerns it could lead to retaliatory gang violence. Faces of the judge, attorneys and jurors are blurred out. The agency didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and email requesting comment.
U.S. District Judge John Dowdell dismissed the Angilau’s family’s wrongful-death suit Friday, citing the video as proof that the U.S. marshal — referred to as Jane Doe in his ruling — acted reasonably. The family argued Angilau was armed only with a pen and the four shots fired were excessive.
“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 (Jane) Doe’s use of force to immediately stop Angilau’s attack was objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances,” Dowdell wrote.
The Angilau family attorney, Bob Skyes, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and email requesting comment Monday. He has previously said after seeing the video that the marshal “panicked” when other methods could have been used to subdue Angilau.
Angilau was one of 17 people named in a 2010 indictment accusing Tongan Crip members of assault, conspiracy, robbery and weapons offenses. He was the last defendant in the case to stand trial, with previous defendants being sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison.
A mistrial was declared after the shooting.
The media coalition including the AP fought for several years with government attorneys to have the video released publicly, arguing that the shooting raised questions about police use of force and upholding the principle of open courts.
Department of Justice attorneys said the media organizations wanted the video to “sell newspapers.”