A teenager wanted in connection with a 2010 Tacoma gang shooting recently was extradited back to Pierce County from Mexico to face a murder charge.
Naitaalii Toleafoa, who turned 18 today, is set to make a first-appearance in juvenile court this morning. Deputy prosecutor Phil Sorensen said a judge will set a future hearing to determine if Toleafoa’s case should be transferred to adult court.
“This was a violent, adult-style, gang crime and we will be seeking to prosecute the defendant as an adult because of the longer sentences in the adult system,” Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said. “If tried as a juvenile, the defendant would only be facing three years in custody, which would not be justice.”
The teenager has been on the run since May 12, 2010, when gang leader Juan Zuniga was gunned down at a West End home. Prosecutors contend Toleafoa and fellow gang member Juan Ortiz killed Zuniga at the behest of their compatriots who’d become dissatisfied with Zuniga’s leadership. Toleafoa was 15 at the time. Another man was paralyzed in the shooting.
Ortiz remains at large.
At least seven people have been convicted of felonies in Zuniga‘s death, which was one of three homicides connected to the same street gang in 2010.
Nearly 20 members of the gang were charged in connection with those homicides, including the murder of Camille Love. Gang members looking to avenge an earlier attack on a compatriot killed Love in February of that year. Her brother, Josh Love, was wounded in the shooting.
Prosecutors said the gang decided to attack the Loves because she was driving a red car and he was wearing a red jacket. Red is the color associated with a rival gang.
Five men convicted in Love’s murder received prison sentences ranging from 12 to 75 years earlier this year.