Teen charged in 2010 murder of Tacoma gang leader

Teen charged in 2010 murder of Tacoma gang leader
Naitaalii Toleafoa

TACOMA, Wash. -- A teen extradited from Mexico last year has been charged in the 2010 assassination of a Tacoma gang leader. The suspect was 15 years old at the time of the murder.

The Pierce County Prosecutor's Office charged Naitaalii Toleafoa, now 18, with murder, assault and unlawful possession of a firearm Friday in connection with the shooting that killed Juan Zuniga, leader of the Eastside Lokotes Sureños gang, and paralyzed fellow gang member Dean Salavea.

According to the Prosecutor's Office, Toleafoa and another teen, Juan Ortiz, arrived at Zuniga's house in Tacoma shortly after midnight May 11, 2010, supposedly in order to pay a debt.

Zuniga and Salavea let the teens into the house and went with them to the garage, where Ortiz shot Zuniga in the back of the head and Salavea was shot in the back as he attempted to escape, according to the Prosecutor's Office.

The assassination was reportedly ordered by four ELS gang members who were in prison at the time and unhappy with Zuniga's leadership. According to the Prosecutor's Office, three other men assisted in the murder by giving cellphones to Ortiz and Toleafoa, driving them to and from the murder, and giving them a ride to Los Angeles, where they were to catch a bus to Mexico.

Those seven men have already been charged. Ortiz, now 20, is still at large.

Despite being 15 at the time of the murder, Toleafoa is being charged as an adult.

At his arraignment Friday afternoon, Toleafoa pleaded not guilty. He is being held on $5 million bail.