Hours later he was dead, shot by law enforcement officers at the corner of Alberni Street and Saratoga Avenue in East Palo Alto -- six blocks from his home -- after a violent rampage thorough the neighborhood.
The shooting was justified, a report on the incident concluded.
"Here, all evidence indicates the shooting officers, (Menlo Park) Officer Aaron Dixon and (San Mateo County Sheriff's) Sgt. Peter Ralls, had an objective, reasonable, honest, and actual belief that they and other persons were in immediate danger of great bodily injury or death. Ö The force used was reasonably necessary," San Mateo County District Attorney's office Chief Inspector John Warren wrote.
"(Menlo Park) Officer Brad Schuler and Officer Dixon and Sgt. Ralls would have been seriously injured or killed had Dixon and Ralls not shot."
An affable youth, by most accounts, Iongi loved to play football, dance, listen to music and attend church. But somewhere along the line, his life turned tragic -- although when, exactly, is tough to say.
Iongi was part of a tight-knit Tongan family.
"He was a nice little brother. He never did anything to hurt anybody," his sister Monia Iongi said Wednesday. She refused to give her age or say more about the family. Efforts to reach his parents, Taniela and Vaiti Iongi, were unsuccessful.
Iongi, known to his friends as "Loco," was a member of a group known as the Check Mob. The group has hand signals and code names -- Iongi was "Check 50."
He was a junior at Carlmont High School in Belmont.
He first got into trouble with the law in 2003 when he was 12 by assaulting a school employee with profanity, according to police reports.
About four months later, when he was 13, Iongi attacked someone at school. A year later, 14-year-old Iongi was arrested for attacking another person at school. Just two months later, in May 2005, he was arrested again for having a weapon at school.
In December of 2005, Iongi was hit by a car when crossing a street and spent several weeks in intensive care at Stanford Hospital. He was different after the accident, some said. No longer able to play football, Iongi became "slow to respond, kind of quiet," according to minister Heilala Ahio, minister of the First Tongan United Methodist Church of Palo Alto, where Iongi's family had attended since 1983.
On the evening of Dec. 22, Iongi had been drinking. He had a blood alcohol level of 0.19 at his death, more than double the legal limit for driving.
Based on the District Attorney's final report, which compiled the statements of victims, witnesses and involved law enforcement officers, a picture of Iongi's evening began to emerge.
Around 10:54 p.m., a couple left their Alberni Street house to grab something from a car that was parked in front of their home.
Three young Pacific Islander men, carrying guns and wearing black hooded sweatshirts, demanded they turn over their belongings.
The woman said she only had her car key and cell phone. The man spoke only Spanish.
Two of the attackers grabbed the man, pushed him against the gate and patted him down. As one of the attackers returned the key and phone to the woman, another -- probably Iongi -- began to hit the man in the head. All three attackers than punched and kicked the man.
As the woman cried for them not to hurt him, one attacker, likely to have been Iongi, took the cell phone and key again from the woman.
As this attacker, who was identified later as Iongi, continued yelling, one of the others began speaking to him in a different language. The attacker warned the couple "he would kill them if they called the police."
Minutes later, two blocks away at the corner of Westminster Avenue and Newbridge Street, a man was standing in front of a house when he was approached by two young Pacific Islander men.
Using a gun, they forced the man to hand over his cell phone and $100 cash he was carrying.
And as the man turned toward the house and began to flee, the robber -- who matched the description of Iongi -- shot the man in the back.
The two attackers fled south.
Aware that something was going on in the neighborhood, around 11:30 p.m., Menlo Park Police Officer Schuler was parked near the corner of Alberni Street and Saratoga Avenue. He saw a young Pacific Islander man, with leaves on the shoulder of his black hooded sweater, walking north on the east side of Alberni Street, toward Schuler's vehicle.
He was about 5 feet 10 inches tall and 200 to 220 pounds, matching the description of one of the suspects in the attack on the couple.
From his car, Schuler said he called out, "Hey, what's going on?"
According to the report, Iongi kept walking.
Schuler stepped out of his car. "Hey buddy, I need to talk to you."
He asked Iongi where he was going.
Still walking, Iongi said he was going home. (According to the home address listed in his file, Iongi lived south, not north, of Westminster Avenue.)
"Can you stop for a minute?," Schuler says he asked.
"No, I just want to go home," Iongi responded.
After calling for assistance, Schuler said he attempted to detain Iongi, trying to get him to put his hands on the vehicle and grasping his left arm and hand in an attempt to gain control.
"What are you going to do, shoot me?" Iongi asked.
Telling Iongi he was not going to shoot, Schuler said he tried to get Iongi to relax.
Just then, a second man, Kilipeni Pahulu, then 18, approached from the south on Alberni Street.
Menlo Park Officer Dixon arrived and saw Schuler with Iongi and went over to talk with Pahulu, who told Dixon that Iongi was his cousin.
Iongi stepped into the street, and Schuler said he thought the youth was going to run. He pulled his gun and ordered Iongi to stop.
As Iongi ran south on Alberni Street, Schuler holstered his weapon and gave chase.
Responding to calls for assistance, San Mateo Sheriff's Sgt. Peter Ralls arrived and saw Iongi and Schuler on the east side of the street.
Schuler caught up with Iongi. Aware he had backup support, Schuler said he considered knocking Iongi off his feet, but decided the youth was larger than him, so he again tried a "control hold," which can knock a person unconscious by cutting off blood flow through the neck.
Iongi broke free.
Schuler fell back, crouching with his back turned, three to 10 feet away from Iongi, with no cover.
Ralls and Dixon saw Iongi pull a gun from his waistband and point it at Schuler.
"Gun," Dixon yelled, pulling his weapon.
Schuler tried to scramble for the cover of a parked car.
Dixon said Iongi fired twice at Dixon and Schuler.
Dixon and Ralls began shooting. Dixon said he shot six or seven times; Ralls said he fired five or six times. Ralls said he did not recall hearing gunfire before he shot but did hear someone else shooting once he pulled the trigger.
Iongi fell to the ground, the gun falling from his hand. Two casings from the weapon were recovered, Chief Inspector Warren said.
He had four major gunshot wounds, two gunshot perforations, and three bullet graze wounds, according to the autopsy.
In Iongi's pants' pocket were the two stolen cell phones, the stolen key and a knife.
A carjacking in East Palo Alto earlier that evening had been committed by a man with a knife, the District Attorney's report noted.
Officers detained three Pacific Islander youth, arresting only Pahulu. One of them kicked the window out in the police car he was in. One of them told investigators that East Palo Alto Police Officer Richard May, shot while on duty in January 2005, had befriended Iongi.
The couple who were robbed and attacked and the man who was shot selected Iongi from a six-person photographic lineup.
Pahulu bailed out of jail several days later and was not charged due to lack of evidence, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said previously.
Iongi's death was one of several to shake the city's Pacific Islander community in December 2006 and January 2007.
And although healing is beginning, the community and nearly everyone involved in the tragic event still feel pain.
"We don't know what to do," Monia Iongi said Wednesday. "(We're) still grieving about his loss, but we can't get him back."
This story contains 1450 words.
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