The fight erupted just after Lucky Dube came on. Fa had gone backstage to get a pen for an autograph. When he returned, a scuffle had broken out on the dance floor. Fa could tell that someone — he couldn’t see who — was getting a beating. And he could tell that the attackers were Baby Regulators.
In fact, the fight had exploded when Rocky Manatau and his friends confronted Toke Tangitau. Tangitau, a looming 6 foot 3 inches and 340 pounds, swung a massive fist and hit Sione Tai hard in the jaw, buckling his knees and sending him to the floor. “Basically, it just blew up,” Tai recounted in a courtroom six months later. “Everyone was just swinging.”
Even as they beat and kicked each other, however, thoughts of family tugged at them: “We have to stop,” Tai remembered one combatant saying, “(Toke) is our cousin.”
They didn’t stop, and neither did Tangitau. He charged another Baby Regulator, but mid-lunge, his huge body stopped short. He fell, face forward, and thudded to the floor. He was shot, but the Baby Regulators weren’t finished. They dragged him outside to stomp and beat him, finally leaving him to die.
In the mayhem that followed the shooting, as the Regulators discarded bloody sweatshirts and fled, people in the crowd began shouting Rocky Manatau’s name.
A few days after the shooting, officers with the Metro
Gang Unit surrounded the Manatau home in West Valley with unmarked
vehicles. Umu and Tupou’s kids and grandkids were playing
inside when officers knocked on the door, guns drawn, and asked
where Rocky was.
“Not here,” Rocky’s mother Tupou Manatau told them. “Rocky doesn’t live here anymore.”
They came in anyway, guns still drawn, and searched the house. Tupou called Umu at the police station, and he came home immediately. The gang unit had left. Umu didn’t know what Rocky had done this time, but he told his wife and children to find Rocky and tell him to give himself up.
Even as a fugitive, Rocky Manatau must have felt his family’s strong pull, because the next morning, he turned himself into the police.
For police, the shooting at Suede was a difficult investigation. The Summit County Sheriff’s deputies had trouble infiltrating Salt Lake Valley’s gangs and gathering information from the Polynesian culture. According to Dave Booth, the chief deputy for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Toke Tangitau’s family told investigators, in essence, “We respect what you’re doing, but we’re going to take care of this.” The rebuff was both frustrating and chilling.
Eventually, detectives pieced the story together. Eight men had circled Toke Tangitau’s body on the balcony at Suede that night. One of them was Rocky Manatau, who was seen kicking the man’s head. But Rocky had not fired the shot. It was one of the Tukuafu brothers, Finau, who was seen before the fight with a gun tucked beneath his belt buckle. Five years after the Tongan Crip Gang burned down his parents’ house, he shot Toke Tangitau through the heart.
Tukuafu was originally charged with first degree murder, but through a plea bargain, was convicted of criminal homicide by assault, a third-degree felony. He was sentenced to up to five years in prison. Rocky Manatau was convicted of misdemeanor rioting and assault. Because he had also broken his probation, he returned to prison as his baby was born.
Throughout this ongoing nightmare, Finau Manatau retained respect for his father, and says he and his brothers always worried that their actions would reflect badly upon him. “I think he was the best,” Finau says. “He made sure we always had whatever we needed.”
Looking back, Umu Manatau is proud of most of his parenting: the church, the Boy Scouts, the man-to-boy talks. Yet he wonders now whether he should have held back with the discipline — all the spanking and hitting.
“My kids, they are going to make their own decisions. In the islands, you hit them and they stop,” he says. “Here, they have more freedom. It’s out of my control.”
THE NEXT GENERATION
Glendale Intermediate School, a plain brown building with ample field space for its seventh and eighth graders to burn off steam, sits in the middle of its namesake West Side neighborhood. Eighty-five percent of the students come from an ethnic minority; about 20 percent are Polynesian. This is where gang members are made, during that tender age when boys become young men. There are still plenty of kids who come through here wanting to claim their neighborhood, defend it, and maybe, someday, die for it.