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$70-Million Claim Filed in Shooting

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The widow of one of the two unarmed Samoan brothers killed in a hail of bullets fired by a police officer has filed a $70-million wrongful death claim against the city.

The claim alleges that Pouvi Tualaulelei, 34, and his brother, Italia, 22, were obeying Officer Alfred Skiles’ order to kneel down outside the family’s home when they were shot. Autopsy reports showed that the men sustained 20 bullet wounds, many to their backs.

Skiles, a 12-year veteran of the police force, told law enforcement investigators that he fired because the two brothers attacked him and tried to take away his gun. Skiles went to the family’s North Grandee Avenue home Feb. 12 in response to a report from the older brother’s wife that her husband had beaten her and taken their two children.

The claim against the city by Pouvi Tualaulelei’s wife, Julie, asks for $20 million in general damages and $50 million in punitive damages, plus $10,000 to cover funeral and burial expenses. The law firm of San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli Sr. is handling the claim.

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“This is much, much worse than what happened to Rodney King, tragically,” said Belli, referring to the videotaped March 3 beating of the motorist by Los Angeles police. Belli called the Tualaulelei shooting “a very callous assassination. The thing I resent is having a man on his knees and turning his back.”

If Compton rejects the family’s claim, a suit will be filed, said Kevin R. McLean, one of the Belli firm attorneys working on the case.

The shooting is being investigated by the FBI, the Compton Police Department, and Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner to determine if criminal charges should be filed against the officer and if the civil rights of the two brothers were violated. The Samoan community, which staged a protest march in Compton two weeks ago, is demanding that Skiles be prosecuted.


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