Man who killed Chinese in botched robbery jailed for life
An 18-year-old man, Gogosina Lelei Leilua, of Vaiusu and Elise, who fatally stabbed a Chinese man in the back up to ten times during a botched armed robbery last year, has been sentenced to life in prison.
The decision was delivered by Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren.
“Gogosina, you are only 18 years old,” she said. “You will now be sentenced to life imprisonment and you also must live with the knowledge that you caused the death of another human being. The tragedy continues for the family of the deceased as well as your family.”
The defendant was in Court for charges stemming from an incident that occurred on 12 October last year. He faced one count of murder; one count of being armed with a dangerous weapon; and one count of aggravated burglary.
Justice Tafaoimalo also underscored the important issue of racism against the Chinese community in Samoa as a relevant factor in the case.
“In the affidavit of Jia Lin Shen, 63 years old, dated 14 January 2020, he says that he feels the Chinese are being targeted and he feels that they are vulnerable and can be attacked any time of the night,” the Judge said.
“I read this with a heavy heart. Our country should be careful lest we become a country with hostility towards a group of persons who have race in common.
“This will lead to crime born of that hostility targeted towards a certain group of people and from there; the step towards hate crime is inevitable. Hate crimes are crimes typically involving violence that are motivated by prejudice on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, or other grounds.
“We pride ourselves as a nation of being tolerant and accepting of different races and nationalities, very much in harmony with our Christian beliefs. We must guard this tolerance fiercely.
“This point is particularly poignant given what is happening around the globe with the race issue.
“If we do not discourage racial biases and preconceptions, racism which translates into crime may very well become a real issue in Samoa and not one that only occurs elsewhere in the world.”
Justice Tafaoimalo noted an increase of a gang or pack mentality among young people in the commission of crimes.
“We see young men influenced by their peers to adopt irrational and dangerous behaviours which they would not normally adopt individually,” the Judge said.
“This is another dangerous trend that our country needs to be conscious of. Our many unemployed young men should be in vocational training to avoid idleness, boredom and low financial standing which ultimately in the vast majority of cases leads in only one direction - crime.
“All the young men who were with the defendant on the material night, were unemployed and all were between 18 and 22 years old.
“The young defendant here will now spend at least 10 years in prison. The tragedy of this case is immeasurable.”
The defendant pleaded guilty to the charges through his counsel on 9 March 2020.
According to the summary of facts accepted by the defendant, on 12 October 2019 at around 3pm, Mikaele and Kome met at Vaiusu and concocted a plan to burgle Pacific Traders Limited at Vaitele.
“After two and half hours of planning, Mikaele and Kome approached two boys and also Gogosina and Tafi regarding their plan,” the court heard.
The Police report said that around 9pm, the men armed themselves with weapons and made their way to Vaitele taking a shortcut through Elise Fou near the Silva Transport compound.”
After dinner, one of the Chinese workers, Jun Li, went inside the warehouse to put away their daily sales.
At that time, Kome and Mikaele snuck in behind the warehouse before they went in separate directions. Sometime later, Gogosina and Tafi, both armed, entered the enclosed yard without permission and headed in separate directions.
Mikaele, who was armed with a machete, was in the compound when he came across the deceased who was with his Chinese colleagues.
Attempting to approach Mikaele, the deceased and his colleagues confronted him outside the warehouse.
In the ensuing conflict, Mikaele was disarmed and then struck by the deceased with the machete. He fended off the blow with his left hand causing him to be injured and cry out for help.
The deceased, who was by then shirtless, turned his back towards the property’s chain-link fence and made his way toward Mikaele. Whilst his back was turned, Gogosina approached him and stabbed him from behind 5-10 times in the back, according to the Police report.
The deceased died at the scene from multiple stab wounds to the back and shoulders.
Cao Ya Qing who lost his life in the incident was a Chinese national who worked for Pacific Trade Industries at Vaitele.
A representative of the company, who provided a victim impact report in court, said that the family of the deceased travelled from China after this happened and stayed in Samoa for a month.
The company paid $300,000 and five return airfares from China; their accommodation and food for a month and [a] funeral service fee.
He said that the employees of the Company continue to live in fear that another tragedy might occur and the company has hired a security company to provide protection.
In total the monetary loss to the company is over $500,000, said Justice Tafaoimalo.
The defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder charge, and for aggravated burglary, he was sentenced to five years; for the count of being armed with a dangerous weapon he was sentenced to one year in jail. The sentences are to be served concurrently.