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USCG recognizes local cops for their work

Falana’ipupu Taase Sagapolutele shaking hands with U.S Coast Guard Sector Commander from Honolulu, Capt. Michael C. Long after the DPS Deputy Commissioner received his Certificate of Recognition last week. See story for details.  [photo: AF]

Three police officers, as well as Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson, were recognized last week by officials from the US Coast Guard, who collaborated with the Dept. of Public Safety earlier this year on a case involving a fatality on a fishing vessel.

The three police officers are: Deputy Commissioner, Falana’ipupu Ta’ase Sagapolutele, (head of the DPS Criminal Investigation Division (CID) at the time of the incident), Det. Misi Leo, and Det. Sili Sea.

The local law enforcement officers were each presented a Certificate of Recognition last Friday afternoon, in a brief ceremony held inside the Commissioner’s conference room.

Capt. Michael C. Long, Sector Commander for the US Coast Guard in Honolulu, arrived last Monday night to present the certificates. Capt. Long, on behalf of the US Coast Guard, thanked Le’i and DPS for all their hard work, crediting their partnership and close collaboration for a smooth investigation.

  “In February 2017, the suspicious death of a US citizen aboard a US-flagged commercial fishing vessel, based out of Pago Pago, American Samoa, demanded an immediate investigation, which has ultimately required hundreds of man-hours to process a complex crime scene, conduct interviews, and collect multiple items of vital evidence,” he shared, adding that the professionals from DPS answered the call and was the lead investigative agency.

He recognized the "expert detectives" who were involved and said, “The outstanding dedication, diligence, and professionalism are in keeping with the highest traditions of effective and cooperative interagency law enforcement. On behalf of the men and women of the Coast Guard Investigative Service, please accept my sincerest thanks.”

Le’i thanked the USCG representatives for recognizing the efforts of local police officers and said, “It is one of those milestones; and our plan moving forward, in relation to the government, working together with our people, and any law enforcement outside and around the Pacific, is to make sure that law and order is sustained and restored in our community, for the betterment of our people,” he said.

When asked about the results of their investigation, Capt. Long told Samoa News he cannot comment, as the investigation is still ongoing.

“We are still reviewing every single file that was handed over to us by detectives of the American Samoa police force, and so far - no suspect has been named,” he said.

It was February 28 when police wrapped up their investigation into the death of a US citizen found dead on board a purse seiner on February 8.

The deceased was identified as Joshua David Bell, 35, from Jacksonville, Florida.

His body was found in one of the rooms inside the fishing boat. Sources told Samoa News that the navigator of an Asian owned boat had stab wounds on his neck.

The vessel had 37 crew members from Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Portugal, Taiwan and the Philippines.