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Police vehicle shot at and damaged while police officers not inside

A bullet hole is seen on the right door of a DPS unit following an incident that happened on Thursday night behind the ASTCA compound at Tafuna, when a person/persons fired twice at the police unit. Luckily police officers were not inside the vehicle or close to it when the shots happened. Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompsen says they are asking the public for help to solve this heinous crime quickly. [photo by Ausage Fausia]

Two gunshots were fired at a police unit last Thursday night at the back of the ASTCA compound in Tafuna, and the Department of Public Safety is looking at all leads while investigating this incident to make sure that the person/persons who were involved  will be arrested  and brought to justice.

Samoa News notes that the Tafuna ASTCA compound is located just down the road from the Tafuna police substation and OMV.

In an exclusive interview with the DPS Commissioner, Le’i Sonny Thompson, early Friday morning, he said a police unit with two police officers inside responded to a call from a security guard at the ASTCA compound in Tafuna, requesting police assistance, after what appears to be a cherry bomb was thrown by an unknown individual/ or individuals inside the compound.

The police unit arrived at the scene a few minutes later and conducted the usual search of the compound, and when the patrol was finished, police officers then extended their patrol to the baseball field, which is located to the back of the ASTCA compound, and that’s when they noticed that the gate was open. One of the police officers went to check out why the gate was open, while the other officer drove the police unit closer to the gate.

According to the commissioner, both police officers then went inside the baseball grounds to check out why the gate was open. It was while they were on the grounds, one police officer saw a flash coming from the front, and identified the flash as what appeared to be a flash out of a weapon.

“And that’s when they realized that somebody was shooting at the police unit, and when they came back to where the police unit was parked, they noticed that the rear window of the car was shattered, and what appeared to be another shot had penetrated through the right front door of the passenger’s side,” Le’i said.

The commissioner said that the bullet was allegedly found inside the police unit and it looks like it came through the headrest of the driver’s seat, as the headrest was torn off.

“If the police officer had been inside he would be dead. This is an unprovoked attack and an attempt on the police officers’ lives. And as far as I am concerned, while this is a grave concern for me, it should also be a grave concern to the general public. An attempt on police officers’ lives is an attempt on all of us, and this must be stopped,” he said.

A special investigation by the Criminal Investigating Division (CID) is being carried out, and the commissioner is asking the public to assist them in this matter so that justice will be done.

“I will do everything to bring this person/persons to justice, in accordance with the law, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We will not rest until we find this person/persons and I need the public’s help. No lead is too small and no lead is not important. We’re investigating this incident and we want to get this done as quickly as possible. I will also bring any help here and from abroad to help me get this done,” the commissioner said.

As we are in the holiday season this time of the year, Le’i said that “this sort of behavior should not happen on our island. We have a lot of visitors, including families and children, visiting us this time of the year, and we don’t want them to get hurt in these types of incidents.”

Le’i called this action a “cowardly and unprovoked act” that is not to be tolerated. As the police commissioner, Le’i said that he was very angry when this incident happened. He said that police officers are armed, but they are very controlled when this type of situation happens.

“We don’t want to go out there and start doing things such as shooting at people who shoot at us, we really don’t want to do that type of response because we need to respond according to the law,” Le’i said.

As a leader, Le’i said that he’s very concerned for the safety of police officers because they put their lives at risk to protect the community and to make sure every single person in the community is safe

“We know that there are a lot of mixed feelings going around the island right now ever since police officers were armed. There are people who are very angry and frustrated and they really want to do something bad to the police, but I want to assure you that we are in control of the situation. There’s no need for any alarm, all I’m doing is I’m appealing to the general public to help us find these people.” Le’i said.

According to the commissioner, this is not the first time police officers’ lives have been at stake —  or almost killed while performing their duty.

Le’i recalled another incident that happened around this busy time of the year in Dec. 2014, when the police unit an officer was riding in with other police officers got shot at in Lepuapua- Leone.

The incident happened when an unknown vehicle shot at the police unit and injured one of the police officers. Bullet holes were seen in the police unit and the rear window was also shattered.

The police officer received injuries to his head, shoulder and chest area and he had to undergo an operation the same morning the incident took place. The police officer was later released from the LBJ hospital, and then taken off-island for more treatment, because there were still several pellets in his head area that local doctors were unable to remove.

Le’i said a police investigation remains ongoing into this incident, and there are still no suspects as of this time.