TACOMA, WA – Today Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist charged Naitaalii Toleafoa, 18, with Murder in the First Degree, Assault in the First Degree and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm in the First Degree. The defendant participated in a shooting that killed Eastside Lokotes Sureños (ELS) gang leader Juan Zuniga and left Dean Salavea paralyzed. One co-defendant, Juan Ortiz, 20, remains at large.
“Our Gang Unit relentlessly pursues justice,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “This is an example of what is meant by, ‘You can run, but you can’t hide.’”
On the night of May 11, 2010, the victims were at Zuniga’s residence in Tacoma. Zuniga told Salavea that the defendants were coming over to pay a debt owed to Zuniga. The defendants arrived shortly after midnight and were welcomed into the home. The defendants and victims walked into the attached garage. Within seconds, Ortiz shot Zuniga in the back of the head. Salavea attempted to flee through a side door and was shot in the back. The defendants left through the front door.
Investigators determined that the assassination was ordered by four ELS gang members who were in prison at the time. They did not approve of the way Zuniga was running the gang. All four were charged for their roles in the murder.
Three other co-defendants were also charged with Murder in the First Degree and Assault in the First Degree for assisting in the planning the murder. They provided Toleafoa and Ortiz with cell phones, transportation to and from the murder, and drove them to Los Angeles so they could catch a bus to Mexico.
In December 2012, Toleafoa was extradited from Mexico. Although he was 15-years-old at the time of the murder, Toleafoa will be charged as an adult because of the seriousness of the crime.
The defendant will be arraigned today at 1:30pm in Courtroom 270 of the County-City Building in Tacoma. Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Heather Songer, Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office