Man on the run from assault charge picked up for another assault
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man with an outstanding arrest warrant was taken into custody last month after police picked him up for a public peace disturbance (PPD) in Tafuna. He was on the run for over two months before he was apprehended.
Asotau Opeta, 37, who has a previous assault conviction from 2012, made his initial appearance in court last month.
Opeta is charged with second-degree assault and unlawful possession of marijuana, both felonies; and two misdemeanors — PPD and third degree assault.
Bail is set at $5,000.
Cops responded to a PPD in Tafuna, after a woman contacted police for assistance, regarding an intoxicated man yelling profanities at her 23-year-old son.
Police arrived and spoke to the caller who told them that it was around 6 p.m when she called her son to pick her up, along with her other children, in front of a restaurant in the Tafuna area. She said as her son was about to exit his vehicle, an old black truck pulled up and scratched the left side of the vehicle her son was driving. Her son exited his vehicle and walked over to speak to the driver of the truck and to see if everything is okay.
As her son was approaching the driver, a man who was later identified as the defendant exited the passenger’s side of the truck, walked towards her son, and immediately punched him in the face and yelled, “Don’t try to be a smart little boy.”
According to the witness, her son did not throw any punches; instead, he stood up and ran back to where his vehicle was parked, while the defendant followed him. A good Samaritan who was standing on the same side of the road where the alleged incident took place incident jumped in and stopped the defendant from striking the victim again.
The defendant attempted to punch the good Samaritan but the man was too big and strong. He grabbed the defendant by his neck, pulled him down on the ground in an effort to stop him. However, the defendant was so quick, he pushed the man — quickly stood up and jumped in his vehicle and attempted to leave the scene.
The good Samaritan did not stop there, he followed the defendant to his vehicle, grabbed the defendant and held on to him until the police officers arrived. The victim jumped in and offered to help to the good Samaritan in an effort to hold the defendant.
Opeta was apprehended outside of his truck and transported to the Tafuna Police Station (TPS) for questioning.
When interviewed, Opeta said that he assaulted the victim for blocking his way. He said it was the victim’s fault, and went on to describe an incident that had happened one hour prior to the current confrontation, where the victim’s vehicle had blocked his truck from leaving the parking lot of the Laufou Shopping Center in Nu’uuli, when the victim parked behind him and went into the store across from the Laufou. He said he waited for over an hour for the victim to come back out and remove his vehicle.
The defendant further stated that he and his cousin were driving when they spotted the same vehicle that had blocked their vehicle at the store blocking the other half of the road.
The defendant said he was in the passenger’s seat while his cousin was driving. He then exited their vehicle, walked over to the victim and yelled at him that he’s blocking the road before he punched him in the face. He also stated that the victim turned around and grabbed his neck and told him that he would kill him and his family if he bothered him again.
As he was making his way to his vehicle, the defendant told officers that a man walked over and tried to interfere, so the turned around and tried to punch him before the man grabbed his shirt and held him down to await the cops arriving on the scene.
It was revealed during Opeta’s police interview that he had an outstanding arrest warrant from another assault case, where he is alleged to have assaulted a man, using a rock to strike his head one year ago.
THE OUTSTANDING WARRANT
On Apr. 21st, 2020, a woman contacted the TPS for help, after her husband was assaulted by a man who worked as a groundsman for a family next to their house in Ottoville.
When police arrived, the woman told them her husband was working outside in their yard while Opeta and a young man were walking on the road heading down to the main road. According to the woman’s statement to police, both Opeta and the other man looked intoxicated and they were making noise such as laughing out loud.
Opeta is believed to have called out to the victim asking him for food and water after the man closed the door of his vehicle on the passenger’s side. The victim did so, walking inside his house and bringing food and two bottles of water and giving them to Opeta and his friend. However, apparently Opeta didn’t appreciate the free food but told the victim he wanted money and more food because they were hungry and wanted to buy more beer and cigarettes.
The victim became angry and allegedly yelled out profane words to Opeta and told him that he should be thankful for the free stuff he received from someone he doesn’t know. Furthermore, the victim told Opeta that only a coward acted like that.
While the victim was standing in front of his vehicle, Opeta walked over to him and hit him on the back of the head with a rock, causing the victim to fall; and while the victim was on the ground, Opeta allegedly kicked his back twice before leaving the scene.
Video footage of the incident was recorded by a nearby store’s surveillance camera, which was obtained by police, and it confirmed Opeta’s involvement.
When police obtained a warrant from the court to arrest Opeta, he was nowhere to be found.
On Aug. 20, 2013, Opeta was sentenced to 20 months detention at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), as a condition of his 5-year probation sentence, after pleading guilty to the amended charge of second-degree assault, under a plea agreement with the government.
The government says Opeta assaulted a man in front of the Fagatogo market after the man schooled him for making a lot of noise while he was intoxicated. Opeta grabbed a coconut and struck the man’s hea