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Utah journalists make new push for 2014 courthouse shooting video

Salt Lake City Federal Courthouse, Thursday, May 19, 2016.
Salt Lake City Federal Courthouse, Thursday, May 19, 2016.
Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It's been two years since a U.S. marshal shot and killed a defendant in Salt Lake City's federal courthouse, and federal officials still refuse to release the video or documents related to the incident.

Since then, the marshal — who has never been publicly identified — has been cleared and the FBI has closed its investigation of defendant Siale Anguilau's death. But the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice have also denied or not yet replied to requests from journalists under the Freedom of Information Act.

Now, the Utah Headliners chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is taking new steps to demand better transparency about the killing.

Attorneys Jeff Hunt and David Reymann of the firm Parr Brown Gee & Loveless, representing Utah's SPJ, filed on Thursday new requests under the Freedom of Information Act seeking video of the shooting. Also joining as requestors are 18 Utah news outlets or organizations.

They include: Deseret News, ABC 4, Associated Press, CW 30, Daily Herald, Davis Clipper, Gephardt Daily, Intermountain Catholic, KSL Newsradio, KSL-TV, KSTU Fox 13, KUTV, Park Record, Salt Lake City Weekly, Salt Lake Tribune, St. George News, Utah Press Association and Utah State News Service.

"As a journalist in Utah, I am proud to see the number of media outlets who have joined in this request to release records that unquestionably should be public," said McKenzie Romero, president of Utah Headliners chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a reporter for the Deseret News.

"The list of requestors and the journalists represented there clearly demonstrates the amount of interest surrounding this incident and these records even two years after the fact," she said.

Romero noted that the SPJ chapter "takes no position of wrong or right" regarding the shooting.

"We say only that, as a matter of public interest that happened in open court, the people have a right to see and know what happened that day if they choose, and the federal government is obligated to comply with those requests under the Freedom of Information Act," she said.

Angilau, 25, was shot by a deputy U.S. marshal after Angilau grabbed a pen and charged at a fellow gang member who was testifying in an April 21 racketeering hearing at the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City.

Angilau was the last of 16 Tongan Crip Gang members to be tried in federal court under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Charges included racketeering, robbery, carjacking, assault on a federal officer and weapons violations.

The deputy marshal was never publicly identified because FBI officials claimed the release of his name served "no legitimate public interest."

"Especially during a time when lethal use of police force is dominating the headlines, it's incredibly important to the public to be able to hold law enforcement accountable when that power is exercised," Reymann said. "There's no way the public can discharge its function of holding police accountable unless they see the evidence."

Reymann said the number of newsrooms and organizations that are united over this request shows committment to follow through with the appeals process if their requests are denied.

"I think everybody is ready to continue this fight if they want to continue denying access to those records," he said.

The Utah Headliners chapter in 2015 gave its Black Hole Award to the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service and asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to intervene in the matter, but to no avail.

Email: kmckellar@deseretnews.com

Twitter: KatieMcKellar1