A man was fatally shot by the Thurston County Sheriff’s SWAT team Sunday night after he allegedly stabbed his cousin then took his 3-year-old daughter hostage.
A SWAT marksman killed 30-year-old Nephi Leiataua after a three-hour standoff at a home in the 8400 block of 49th Loop Southeast, south of Long Lake near Lacey.
Deputies initially responded to a report there of a 27-year-old victim with multiple stab wounds. The victim told deputies he had been stabbed by his cousin Leiataua, who still was inside the home.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, the suspect retreated to a bedroom where he was threatening the child with a knife to her throat and holding her as a shield from deputies. At 8:35 p.m., the suspect was shot once “due to immediate concern for the daughter’s safety,” according to the Sheriff’s Office. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The child, who was not physically injured, was examined by medics and released to her mother, the Sheriff’s Office reports. Both Leiataua and his daughter had been living with the cousin at the 49th Loop home since October.
Lt. Cliff Ziesemer told The Olympian that the marksman’s mission was to “shoot to stop the threat.”
“If the person dies because of it, that’s unfortunate,” Ziesemer said.
The stabbing victim is being treated at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and his condition was not released Monday. Ziesemer said the Sheriff’s Office plans to release 911 calls of the incident later this week.
According to his Instagram.com page, Leiataua was originally from Samoa. Leiataua recently moved to the area from Florida and was a renowned Polynesian tattoo artist, according to Suzanne Shepherd, co-owner of Primeval Ink Tattoo in Olympia, where Leiataua worked. She met Leiataua in October when he walked into the shop with his portfolio of tattoos.
“It was the most incredible thing I had ever seen,” Shepherd said of his tattoo art. “I looked at it and could not believe it.”
That encounter led to an offer for Leiataua to tattoo clients in the evening at the shop, where he worked through most of November. As part of a background check, Shepherd said, she had contacted former employers in Florida, but no red flags were raised.
Shepherd said Leiataua suddenly stopped showing up after something “just turned his life upside down.” She was shocked to learn of Leiataua’s death Monday and the circumstances surrounding Sunday night’s events.
In a Facebook post Monday morning, Primeval Ink described him as a “beautiful man, gentle man, gifted artist.”
“He was just the sweetest soul,” Shepherd said. “He would have never harmed that child for the world. He talked about her all the time.”
The marksman has been placed on administrative leave, per standard procedure. The case will be investigated by the Regional Critical Incident Team, which includes Sheriff’s Office detectives from Thurston, Lewis, Mason, Grays Harbor and Pacific counties. The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office will not participate in the investigation.