Govt files additional charges in alleged hit-and-run case in Pago

Victims include a mother of two and her nephew
ausage@samoanews.com

The driver of a pickup truck that was involved in an accident that allegedly injured two people last week in Pago Pago, is facing multiple criminal charges.

Falaniko Fetoai was initially charged with traffic violations including reckless driving and careless driving; and public peace disturbance, a misdemeanor.

He made his initial appearance in the District Court last week and was released after he posted a $3,000 surety bond.

However, the government has filed two additional charges: assault in the second degree — a class D felony — and third degree assault, a misdemeanor.

This resulted in the defendant being re-arrested and thereafter, he appeared before District Court Judge Fiti Sunia last Friday, where the Court issued a 'no bail' status for him.

Fetoai waived his right to a preliminary examination hearing on Monday, and his case was bound over to the High Court where he entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment yesterday morning.

His pretrial conference is scheduled for Jan. 05, 2018.

According to court documents, an off-duty cop contacted the DPS central station around 7:35 p.m. on Nov. 28, 2017 to report a fight in progress at a residence in Pago Pago.

Two officers arrived at the scene 10 minutes later and noticed a crowd in front of the residence, and a female — one of the victims in the case — lying on the sidewalk.

After speaking to some bystanders, police proceeded to Fetoai’s home in Leloaloa where the defendant was in the process of gathering family members so they could return to Pago to continue the fight.

Police say they detected a strong smell of alcohol on the defendant, who also appeared to have bloodshot eyes.

When one of the officers tried to administer a breathalyzer, the defendant refused.

The court affidavit states that the off-duty cop who contacted police was heading east with his wife when he noticed people fighting in front of a residence near the main road in Pago Pago.

He said he pulled over across the street and walked over to the scene, and those who were fighting were running towards the residence as the sound of sirens was approaching.

One of the witnesses told police he saw a truck in front of the home, back up on to the highway quickly, and swerve back on to the sidewalk at a high rate of speed, heading towards a crowd of people.

The witness then heard a loud bang, followed by yelling, screaming, and cussing coming from the crowd. As the witness continued towards said residence, the vehicle sped past him, heading east.

The witness recognized the driver as “Niko” a.k.a Falaniko Fetoai, the defendant.

Another witness told police that on the night of the incident, as they were trying to drive their vehicles inside the home's security gate, the defendant pulled in to their driveway, blocked them from moving their cars, and started talking to the witness' brother.

A few minutes later, according to the witness, the victim’s husband asked the defendant politely to move his vehicle so they could park. Fetoai turned to the victim's husband and asked if he was talking to him and added, "You see me talking to" someone else.

The witness told police that he suspected something was about to happen, so he closed the gate.

He said Fetoai and the victim's husband then got into a fight, and Fetoai's friend, who was inside the car stepped out and joined in, delivering a 'cheap shot' to the victim's husband.

 The fight escalated towards the main road, heading towards the Satala cemetery and that's when Fetoai and his friend were picked up by Fetoai’s sister, who was heading westbound.

But they didn't go far. The car stopped in front of the house where the fight started and that's where Fetoai and his friend jumped out and got into Fetoai's vehicle.

The witness told police that while their family members were walking towards the house, Fetoai accelerated his vehicle on to the sidewalk and struck the female victim so hard that she fell back a couple of feet.

The victim was unconscious and bleeding from the mouth.

The second victim, a male, told police he heard people screaming and he and his father went to see what was going on.

He said he was told that Fetoai was drunk and came looking for trouble.

The victim said he saw Fetoai being dropped off next to his truck by his sister, and once behind the wheel, Fetoai backed up his truck fast and they thought the truck was heading towards the main road; however, the tires turned towards him and the others, and the vehicle was coming at a high rate of speed.

The victim said he jumped out of the way but his left arm was hit by Fetoai's truck and the left side of his face hit the front part of the hood.

He said when he got up, he noticed his cousin — the female victim — on the ground, and Fetoai's truck never stopped but instead drove off at full speed, as if he purposely meant to hit them.

Another eyewitness — the father of the male victim — told police a similar story.

According to the court affidavit, the female victim was admitted to the surgical ward at LBJ Hospital due to a scalp laceration and a possible skull fracture.

The female victim lost some teeth and also suffered abrasions on her back and chest as a result of the incident.

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