Three policemen shot in Samoa

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 07:50 08/05/2012

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Three policemen have been wounded, one seriously, in a drug raid in Samoa that left another person dead.

The drama came as a 30-strong contingent of armed police conducted a drug raid on Faleatiu village on the main road between the capital Apia and the Faleolo Airport.

The area is infamous for drug growing and over the past decade two policemen have been killed in similar drug raids in the area.

Police Commissioner Lilomaiava Fou Taioalo is quoted on the Samoa Government website Savali saying that the wounded police were in the lead vehicle and were hit in the initial hail of gunfire from unknown assailants.

"Police countered and the immediate priority was to retrieve the fallen officers. The order was also given to the squad to pull back," Lilomaiava said.

"We did not want to escalate the situation."

The injured officers – a senior sergeant and two constables – are now in hospital.

"One officer received chest wounds and is in serious condition. The other two have bullet wounds to the arms and legs, they’re out of danger."

Savali said a dead Faleatiu man was brought to a funeral parlour in Apia later in the day with a gunshot wound to the head.

Lilomaiava said police "will not back off this morning’s incident" and that the morale in the force was high.

"The officers understand their job and getting injured in the line of duty is part of their job description," Savali quoted him saying.

The Talamua news website said Samoa authorities are seeking to fly the seriously wounded police officer to New Zealand for treatment.

It also gave more details, saying the 5.30am raid has been planned for sometime and police suspect their plans were leaked.

Lilomaiava said sometimes, the suspects families use signals to indicate when a police vehicle is within Faleatiu village area.

''Sometimes they use bells or whistles to notify others that police were on their way."

The commissioner said "the police never had a chance to leave their vehicles.”

As the first vehicle turned into the family, someone started firing at the vehicle hitting the driver and two others inside the vehicle.

''We did not go there to attack but given the history of the family, the guns were only for self defence," said the Commissioner.

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"The police only retaliated by firing back cover shots in self-defence while other officers tried to assist the wounded officers,” he said.

Police had shotguns and rifles, but no vests.

The commissioner refused to name the man killed, but Talamua said it was Rapi Vaili, a member of the family whose property the police raided.

Vaili Palau, the head of the family, confirmed Rapi's death.

The commissioner said that if the family refused to bring the body in for a post mortem to identify the bullets which caused his death, ''police will go back to retrieve the body.” 

Vaili Palau told Talamua that the police were to blame for the incident.

He said that when the police arrived "they started discharging their guns” destroying his family property.

Vaili said that there was an agreement between the village and the police to let the village know when they were to raid any family in the village.

''That is not true, there is no agreement between the village and police,'' said the Commissioner.

"If that's the case, what's the point of a raid, it be would be a total waste of time," he replied.

- Stuff

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