POLICE CONFIDENT OF ARREST SOON IN KILLING OF SAMOA GOVERNMENT MINISTER LUAGALAU

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APIA, Samoa (July 23, 1999 – PACNEWS)---Samoa police are confident the killer of Public Works Minister Luagalau Levaula Kamu will be caught soon, according to a media statement released by Commissioner of Police Asi James Blakelock.

The statement said police investigations have determined the suspect was a Samoan male, clean shaven, who wore a brown baseball cap, an army styled camouflage jacket or shirt and long trousers.

"Inquiries are still being made with other witnesses as police seek to consolidate this man's description," the statement said.

Luagalau was shot in the back at close range with a .223 caliber rifle, fired once.

The minister was shot behind the stage of a hall at St. Joseph’s College, as he talked to a female relative by cellular phone about family business, Asi told reporters in elaborating on the statement.

The weapon was pointed from outside the hall and through a space in the brick wall provided by the star-shaped design of the bricks, he said.

"Police have spoken to several people who have described a man seen hanging around the side and rear of St. Joseph's Hall immediately prior to the shooting," the statement added.

"The same man, carrying what police believe was a rifle, was seen fleeing the school grounds after the minister was shot," it said.

The fatal shooting took place last Friday at a hall belonging to St Joseph's College, where the Human Rights Protection Party was celebrating its 20th anniversary.

The suspect was last seen passing through nearby Alamagoto village, but "he is known to be a stranger to that village," police said.

"The scene examination located a .223 Remington cartridge case at the rear of the hall and police are keen to speak to members of the public who know of the existence of any .223 caliber arms or ammunition in the country."

Asi said the gun used to shot Luagalau was either a semi automatic or an automatic. Such guns are illegal in Samoa.

The police have set up two confidential telephones -- 23 333 and 23 478 -- for members of the public to help them locate the suspect and his weapon.

The 35 officers investigating the shooting include police officers and a forensic scientist from New Zealand.

"The inquiry is in its fifth day and Police are confident the killer will be caught," police said.

A church service organized by the government to bid farewell to the minister is scheduled for late this afternoon, to be covered live by government radio and television.

NO ARREST YET IN ASSASSINATION OF SAMOA GOVERNMENT MINISTER LUAGALAU

APIA, Samoa (July 22, 1999 – PACNEWS)---Samoa’s Police Commissioner Asi Blakelock says it is too early to make an assessment as to when police will be able to make an arrest in connection with the fatal shooting of Public Works Minister, Luagalau Levaula Kamu, last Friday.

"We are seeing people who we think should be interviewed," he said.

The Commissioner confirmed that police had completed an examination of the building where Luagalau was killed.

Luagalau was shot at Centennial Hall, which is owned by St. Joseph’s College.

The ruling Human Rights Protection Party was celebrating its 20th anniversary at the hall when the Minister was killed by a single shot from a lone gunman.

Local media reports indicate that an M16 rifle might have been used in the shooting, but this has not been confirmed by police.

"We have a fair idea of the weapon used but this is yet to be determined by the ballistic expert from New Zealand, who is assisting with the investigation," Commissioner Blakelock said.

Luagalau will be buried tomorrow.

AMERICAN SAMOAN GOVERNOR TAUESE PAYS TRIBUTE TO SLAIN SAMOAN MINISTER

APIA, Samoa (July 22, 1999 – PACNEWS)---American Samoan Governor Tauese Sunia has described the late Samoan Public Works Minister Luagalau Levaula Kamu as a valuable and effective member of the Samoa Cabinet who was widely admired in the American territory.

In a message of condolence to Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, the Governor said Luagalau's affability, sense of humor and effective discharge of ministerial duties were commendable.

"It will be difficult to replace him," he said.

Governor Tauese said he would be unable to attend Luagalau’s funeral tomorrow as he would be chairing the annual conference of the Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa. However, First Lady, Fagaoali'i Sunia, will represent the American Samoan Government at the funeral.

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