2 Utah State Prison inmates allegedly locked officers in cell, set fire outside while drunk

Utah State Prison. Photo: Corrections.utah.gov

DRAPER, Utah, May 10, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Two Utah State Prison inmates allegedly locked officers in a cell then set a fire outside while drunk, according to court documents.

A probable cause statement from the 3rd District Court of Salt Lake County said Sameula Lomu, 29, and Taniela Salakielu, 24, are facing charges of:

  • Aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony
  • Riot, a third-degree felony

Lomu is also facing a charge of damaging a jail, a third-degree felony.

The probable cause statements for Lomu and Salakielu that on Nov. 22, 2020, an officer with the Utah Department of Corrections was roaming the Baker Block at Utah State Prison when he noticed a “strong alcoholic odor” coming from a cell assigned to Lomu and Salakielu. The officer told the two he was going to conduct a search of their cell.

While the officer and another officer were searching the cell, they found a bag of fruit that smelled “strongly of alcohol,” the statement said. “Also located in the cell were several electronic devices where the names and numbers associated with the devices were sanded off,” the statement added.

“An officer began collecting the devices and Lomu responded by threatening the officer that if he took the TV, he would rip his head off,” the statement said. That officer told Lomu that they would be removing and confiscating the items and said they would soon be receiving a write up. Lomu reacted by threatening the officers, the statement said. Another inmate in the same section then shut the cell door, leaving the two officers locked inside.

Lomu continued to yell at the officers and began throwing a metal box at the cell, the statement said. The two officers were locked in the cell for over an hour.

Lomu and Salakielu then went to another cell, the statement said, and on surveillance footage, “are seen putting a sheet that’s on fire outside the cell and continued to add sheets to the fire,” the statement added. “Officers were able to enter Baker Block, extinguish the fire, extract the officers, and place Salakielu and Lomu into custody.”

An investigator interviewed Salakielu and asked him to explain when the incident began, the statement said.

“Salakielu stated he was having a hard time remembering everything that happened because he and his cellmate were drunk at the time,” the statement said. The investigator asked him how the cell door became closed and Salakielu said “I think one of my homies closed it” and that “things could’ve been a lot worse if the door wasn’t closed.”

When questioned about the fire, Salakielu explained that he lit the fire “and that he did not know why but explained that Lomu were feeding off of each other’s energy,” the statement said.

Lomu was also interviewed, and after being read his Miranda rights, allegedly said that when the officer accused him of drinking and started taking his electronic devices, he became upset, and wanted to apologize to the officer. He also admitted to drinking prior to the incident. He also allegedly admitted to throwing the metal boxes while he was upset. “When asked about the fire, Lomu explained that he and Salakielu decided to rack in when they saw the SWAT team show up and he wasn’t sure why he started the fire,” the statement said.

The statement also refers to six other inmates “who are fellow gang members” and who were given several orders to “rack in” during the incident.


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