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Dispatch: 'It's hard because it left everyone clueless'

October 14, 2009 |  7:07 pm

Puncho Eteuati, 34 More than six weeks after Puncho Eteuati, 34, was gunned down in the front yard of his sister-in-law's Wilmington home, authorities said they have made little progress in finding his killer.

The August weekend Eteuati was killed began like any other. The youth pastor for the First Samoan Full Gospel in Compton drove from his home in Hawthorne to Wilmington to pick up his young niece Chanell.

Each Friday, he made the same trip so Chanell could spend the weekend with him and his wife.

On Saturday, he took more than 50 children from his church, including Chanell and her older brother, Blue, to Wild Rivers Waterpark in Irvine.

Family members said the couple — who had no children of their own — had a special bond with Chanell and Blue, forged when they cared for the children for four years when their mother was unable to do so. Family members said Chanell is about five-years old and Blue about seven.

On Sunday, Aug. 30, Eteuati and his wife, Chanell, brought Chanell back to her mother's home. About 10:30 p.m., Eteuati stood outside his sister-in-law’s home in the 1300 block of Ronan Avenue. He and his wife were talking to her sister about attending church with them.

As they spoke, a shooter walked up and opened fire, according to Bruce Eteuati, who said when his brother saw the gunman he yelled for his wife and her sister to take cover.

Eteuati was shot several times, according to the coroner’s office. He was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center where he died of his wounds, said Detective Sid Rodriguez of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Harbor Division.

“He was a leader in his family,”  Rodriguez said. “It seemed like he was doing everything right. That’s what’s so hard to figure out here.”

Police have no suspects and no motive. It is unclear whether Eteuati’s murder was a gang-related.

“He has no ties,” to gangs  Rodriguez said. The case is especially unusual because no one within gangs is talking about the killing, according to Rodriguez.

Three gangs are very active in the area: The Westside Wilmas, Eastsiders and Waterfront Piru, none of which have an active Samoan base. To the north though, both Compton and Carson have a sizeable Samoan Crips population, according to Det. Rodriguez.

Police are considering mistaken identity as a possible motive.

“It looks like they targeted someone,” Rodriguez said.

Eteuati was the tenth child of 12 children. He was the youngest boy among his four brothers and seven sisters. Born in Samoa, he immigrated with his family to California in the 1981, when he was 6 years old.

The family lived in Compton, and most have stayed in the area, near where their parents still live. Eteuati’s father is a retired pastor and the family is very involved in their faith.

Eteuati was known among family members as saying “What’s up, sole?” greeting people as “brother” in Samoan, a language often spoken in their homes.

After his death, family members made T-shirts with a picture of Eteuati donning a yellow baseball cap, and the words “sleep tight, sole” on the bottom in bright yellow. He was remembered by family members as someone who would always lend a hand.

When Eteuati and his wife were awarded custody of Blue and Chanell during a difficult time in their mother’s life, the couple decided to leave Compton. He left his hometown for larger accommodations in Hawthorne, according to his sister Lina Ofisa, 41.

After four years of Eteuati’s care, custody was recently reinstated to the children’s mother, but the bond between Eteuati and his niece and nephew remained. They would spend the weekend together and attend Sunday services at First Samoan.

The church was central to Eteuati’s life, his siblings said. Two years ago, when he suffered a serious back injury as a truck driver, Eteuati decided to follow in his father’s footsteps.

He began studying at the California Bible University in Norwalk with the goal of eventually becoming a pastor, Ofisa said.

“He wanted to learn about the word of God, to do something with his life,” Ofisa said.

Family members are puzzled as to why someone would kill Puncho.

“It’s hard because it left everyone clueless,” Bruce Eteuati said. “He was a strong man of God.”

-- Lauren Williams

Follow The Homicide Report on Twitter @latimeshomicide.

Photo: Puncho Eteuati, 32, of Hawthorne was shot about 10:30 p.m. Sunday as he stood on the sidewalk in the 1300 block of Ronan Avenue. Credit: Eteuati family


The comments to this entry are closed.

Comments (28)

My prayers go out to the Eteuati family. I have faith and know that our Lord and Savior will take care of this for you, this evil person took the life of a child of God. I ask that if anyone have any info that could help bring justice to this family I ask if you please call WE-Tip @ 800-78-CRIME or the Harbor Div LAPD office. I know someone out there know something that could help

just wanted to leave a note to say sorry for your lost.my prayers to the family.

My heart goes out to the Eteuati Family. As a mother of a murdered child, I know the heart ache and pain. We have a website for parents whose children have been murdered. www.jfmc.org and you can go to facebook and look up Justice For Murdered Children and join in the chats as we discuss our pain.

And to those who know what happened you need to let law enforcement know ASAP, the life save maybe your own.

Don't cry for Puncho...he is in heaven with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!! Pray for his family and friends, who will greatly miss him...

Poor shooter. He's in for it. The Bible is unambiguous on the matter.

1. One of the commandments is, "You shall not murder."
2. God promised " I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you." He is referring to His people and this young victim was one of His people - by faith.
3. "Vengeance is mine - says The Lord. I will repay."

Boy, oh boy, oh boy! The shooter has gotten himself into a fine mess.

My sympathies go out to the Pastor's family. Killing for the most part is always senseless, because it can be avoided. Not understanding anymore than others, because of the senseless and clueless nature of this incident; it could be a 'hate crime'. In gang ridden areas when people try to bring goodness into the population, it creates undue influence of the gang activities or the other negative influences in the region.

The mere fact he was a Christian pastor may not change the dynamics of the message of hate. Throughout history and even today Christians are being persecuted for their beliefs as are other religions.

When people take it upon themselves to 'play God' with anothers life, there will be a balance achieved in one way or another. I believe that those who do good, who preach and who help others through good acts will be availed an opportunity somewhere in time and space to actually be rewarded with generosity from the God in the Goodness. When you think about it, removing God from Good, and will be left with a sum total of "O". There is nothing left in and of itself except a zero, zippo, nada and anything else you want to apply to the formula in that equation.

Most people who do good in this world actually believe there is something outside of themselves (a higher power) that watches over each of us. We as a country are very charitable towards others when catastrophe arises throughout the world. By far we surpass other nations in this belief in charitable acts towards others. Ask yourself why that is? Because we believe in God. We Trust in God.

One day those who have purposely done harm to others because of the lack of love in their life will be judged according to their acts. This Pastor epitomizes what it is to live a life trying to help others. He took a risk at it is, not knowing that his labors of love and concern for kids in his stead would benefit for the remainder of their lives. Puncho will be recognize today, tomorrow and forever as a man who gave it up because of his beliefs. Somewhere in time he will be rewarded for his acts and generous spirit towards others. Good luck finding the killers and may justice be served accordingly.

man...same old crap. How do this monsters go up and shoot a person they dont even know..and yet...the person didnt even do anything to them..........the police are no where to be found in Wilimington.....man......god please punish the monster who did this to this man

Dont blame the cops fool, blame the punks who grew up without parental supervision that did this to him...

We can't even begin to blame the Police for not being there, because the Police will never be right there at the right time every time we need them when these evil cowards do their dirt. That's why the cowards (Gang Members) do their cowardly acts, because they know the Police are most likely nowhere around, and take those opportunities when they can, because they know if the Police is around when they do their dirty deeds, they could go to prison or be killed their selves by the Police for having a gun. That's why they're cowards. But what we need to do as a community is start supporting our Police depts., and working together and anonymously start turning them in when we see them committing these crimes like selling drugs in our neighborhoods, and all the other crimes these low life cowardly thugs do. You can call We-Tip @ 800-78-CRIME (27463) or 800 47-DRUGS (37847), then we could start getting rid of them one by one, group by group, then we'll start seeing a change.

..i LOVE YOU UNKO PUNCHO..iMA MiSS MAh UNKO PUN..I WONT FORGET THAT MOMENT YOU TOLD ME TO SING WITH MORE SOUL..i PROMiSE EVERY TiME i SiNG iLL SiNG iTLL BE ALL FOR YOU..BODY SOUL & SPIRIT..i LOVE YOU UNKO FOR LIFERS..&&LiKE AUNTiE SED I AiNT NEVA GONNA FOR GET CHU..i LOVE YOU UNKO SO MUCH..HOPE YOU GUIDE ME THRU MY LiFE AND FORGiVE MY MiSTAKES THAT MiGHT BE NOTiCABLE IN HEAVEN BUT UNSEEN ON EARTH..AND PLEASE DNT TELL MY MOM..PLUS YOU NOW SEE EVERYTHiNG SHE DNT..SECRETS &ALL..HAHA..LOVE YOU MY NUMBER ONE COP..LUV rAYrAY p.s. iM STiLL WAiTiN ON MAh iPOD TOUCH SO HOW ABOUT YOU PULL SUM STRiNGS IN HEAVEN..WINK WINK..SINCE YOU OH GEEh WITH THE MAiN MAN UP THERE..HAHA..UNTIL WE MEET AGAiN..

It is a tragedy this man who was involved with the church and helped children was gunned down in such a cold blooded manner. My sympathies go out to the family. The community is going to have to get involved and help the police solve this seneless murder.

That guy looks like a gangter!

@Ryan: "This guy looks like a gangster". How ignorant. Why because this sole is wearing a black jacket and goatee that makes him look like a gangster? I am tired of my aiga (family)being portrayed as thugs simply because of the color of their skin, the length of their hair, etc. Samoans are the most loving, kind hearted, spiritual, family oriented people you could ever meet. Don't make assumptions based on image alone, or you will be missing out on a beautiful culture.
To the family - may God surround and comfort you with his alofa. My family & I will keep you in our prayers.

This is really sad news. Puncho was a decent guy & didn't deserve to die like this. He is an example of what's right in this world, and it sucks that someone would take his life without any reason. Let's all unite in the light and stand against the darkness. Pray for each other & families, pray for your neighborhoods. Peace be with you. Sincerely,Stever

omg i love the samoans im a smoan myself talofa mi friend!!!!RIP:(

@ Cerritos Aiga...nothing was said about the color of his skin btw...why are u race baiting? Sad story none the less

This is such a sad story, a man in his prim of his life ,taken from his wife , family and community,for what????
I hope the niece and nephew will always follow the good example, of how this man lived, that is what he would of wanted.

how do these gangs still exist? all their members should be in jail.

police are much more important being in poor areas, or else the kids will believe there is no protection for them.

@yup

This may be hard for you to understand (you know, everything can't be in three-letter-words) but I will try to keep it simple for you:

"He looks like..."

Looks, n. "one's physical appearance." "Variations in the physical appearance of humans, known as human looks, are believed by anthropologists to be an important factor in the development of personality and social relations ."

I am sorry if this inconveniences your knee-jerk defense of some anonymous racists - but ,yes - skin color is a part of a human's "physical appearances."

To the family all of our humble condolences for a great son , uncle ,Friend and Pastor !
Fly High Big Guy your with the Angels now !!!

Youre the fool Steve...cops never around unless they giving out dumb parking tickets at the Casual Hall....Wilimington is a gangters paradise...cus the POLICE ARE NO WHERE TO BE FOUND>.....prove me wrong...im in Wilmington...EVERYDAY!---East to the West side......EVERYDAY...

I so sadden by the loss of this young man. I left Los Angeles long ago due to employment but I often come back to my old stoping grounds. It tears me up to see what gangs have done to my once proud hometown.
Nothing can be replaced here on this earth. For all who believe you will see your sole in heaven and his takers of lives will meet their final tormenting place as well. I pray for all...victim and perpetrator that souls will be won for the lord from all of this senselessness.
RIP my SOLE.

the person that did this was not evil...just lost,
another soul that needs God and his forgiveness...
i kno how it feels to loose someone youcare about..ive lost 2 brothers myself. my prayers go out to the Eteuati family..
be glad that at least heknew the Lord and is with him nowon his right side.
may God be with you.

..SORRY BUT HAD TO KUM BACK &TELL THE WORLD WAT KiNDA PERSON MY UNKO WAS..HE WAS THE ONLY UNKO THAT TRUSTED ME..HE TRUSTED ME SO MUCH HE GAVE ME HiS CREDiT CARD..YEAH..iF YAH WERE THERE YAH KNOW THAT STORY..BUT HE WAS A GUD MAN..ALWAYS LOViNG..PPL JUDGE HiM ON HiS PiX..BUT THATS WHY WE SAY DNT JUDGE A BOOK BY iTS COVER..HE WAS SO KIND AND GiViNG..HE WAS DEFINITELY ONE OF A KiND..AND A DiAMOND iN MY EYES..i LOVE YOU UNKO AND WiLL NEVER FORGET CHU..LiFE KAN NEVER BE THE SAME WiTHOUT CHU..i WiLL ALWAYS REMEMBER..&LiKE THE BOiiS SED..OUR KiDS TO KUM WiLL KNOW YOU..LUV YOU FOR LiFERS..HAHA..
-SOULSiNGER NiECE#12-

What happened to this man is very sad. However, his life story gave me great joy. From what is written, it's as though he lived a life in God's service. He took care of his family and aspired toward spiritual understanding and greatness. I thank God for this man who's a stranger to me, but who let God's light shine through his life. In the midst of not understanding why something so senseless could happen, I am encouraged to strive to be a remarkable person like he was.

Prayers are a Given a little cash to the Family in this time of great loss and need
would certainly be appreciated!

A curse to those responsible for this senseless murder, I pray for the family.

soulsinger,
I’m guessing writing and reading and education were not high on this man’s list of things to accomplish? Your writing is atrocious and trying to read your postings gave me a headache. One should really learn the difference between writing for an audience of teenagers and a general audience.



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The Homicide Report is compiled using information from the Los Angeles County coroner's office, local law enforcement agencies and the Los Angeles Times. It is written by Times staff writers.


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