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Second TCF escape for 2018
Two familiar faces in the lineup were part of the last month’s group of 4 that escaped

Police are still searching for the two inmates who escaped from the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) in Tafuna on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. This is the second time this year inmates have escaped from confinement — and two familiar faces are in the lineup.

In an interview with Police Commissioner yesterday morning, Le’i Sonny Thompson confirmed to Samoa News this incident.

“Police are still searching for the two inmates who escaped from TCF this week. Joe Togitogi and Joseph Iakopo escaped last Monday and they are still at large.

“Law enforcement is doing their very best searching for these inmates,” Le’i told Samoa News.

He said, “I don’t know what else to say about these two inmates. They were part of the four inmates who escaped from jail last month, and now they are out again.”

Le’i stated that DPS officials have already looked into this incident carefully and they reviewed the surveillance cameras inside the new prison, which confirmed how the two inmates managed to escape.

“We reviewed the tapes and it shows that the two inmates cut the rebar inside the new prison facility and escaped. We’ve come to the conclusion that we have to review the whole incident including reviewing the whole building itself. I think that there is more that’s needed to be done to make sure these types of incidents never happen in the future,” said the police commissioner.

Le’i said the escape of the four inmates from jail last month had caused him to make some changes to ensure inmates could not escape.

“The first escape happened when inmates walked through the front door and went outside because there were no police officers stationed there at the time.

Police officers were only going inside to do their normal check and go back. I then placed a police officer inside the front office, inside the new prison facility, so that he can be visible — unfortunately that was not the case — the inmates cut the rebar and escaped through the ceiling and outside they went,” Le’i said.

The Commish says that changes are again being made in the operations of TCF to prevent escapes. He said a police officer would be stationed in the cell block for every shift.

As to the two escapees, he plans to have them locked up in the cell at the central police station in Fagatogo when they are recaptured.

Asked if the escaped prisoners are considered dangerous to the community, Le’i responded that whenever a prisoner escapes from jail, they should be considered a danger to the community.

The Commissioner is appealing to the public that if anyone in the community has any information that can lead to the capture of these inmates, please call 633-1111 or 699-9944. Public support and assistance is greatly appreciated.

Togitogi was scheduled to appear in High Court yesterday for sentencing, after he was convicted last November of escaping from confinement on Apr. 16, 2016, while serving a 5-year sentence for a 2015 second degree assault conviction.

When his case was called, Assistant Attorney General Woodrow Pengelly appeared for the government, while Public Defender Doug Fiaui representing Togitogi informed the court that his client was not present.

When asked by Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea to explain why Togitogi was not present, Pengelly stated that Togitogi had escaped from TCF on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018.

“What happened … is that law enforcement is actively searching for the defendant. The government will ask the court to continue this case, and the government is in the process of filing new charges for the two new escape incidents against the defendant,” he said and asked the court for a 3-week continuance. Fiaui did not object to the government’s request.

The court granted the request and re-scheduled the sentencing for Togitogi to Mar. 1, 2018 at 8:30 a.m. — given that he is back in custody by then.

Iakopo was sentenced in 2014 to 16 years in jail after he was convicted of 14 burglaries involving six stores, a church, two restaurants and five homes.