Witnesses describe chaos at Reno party where Truckee snowboarder was shot
RENO, Nev. (AP) ” Witnesses described fear and chaos at an off-campus Halloween party the night three people were shot dead, including Truckee snowboarder Charles Coogan Kelly, according to grand jury testimony.
Transcripts of the testimony said the Oct. 28 party attended by some University of Nevada, Reno athletes had been calm until a group of uninvited guests assaulted a basketball player.
Sophomore forward Tyrone Hanson, since dismissed from the Nevada team, was being beaten before the person accused on three counts of murder arrived at the house, witnesses said.
Killed were Kelly, 21, of Truckee; University of Nevada, Reno senior Derek Kyle Jensen, 23, of Reno; and former UNR student Nathan Viljoen, 23, of Sparks.
The Reno Gazette-Journal reports that witnesses referred to the intruders as Tongans or Pacific Islanders in their testimony.
The accused shooter, Samisoni Taukitoku, 19, is scheduled to be arraigned Friday on three counts of murder with the use of a deadly weapon and four counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
He remains jailed on $1 million bond.
Saili Manu, 19, who crashed the party with Taukitoku and two 16-year-olds, has pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and is scheduled to be sentenced in August.
According to grand jury transcripts, the shootings occurred within minutes of the quartet’s arrival at the party. Witnesses told of screaming, rapid fire gunshots and a foreign language being spoken. Many witnesses heard people screaming “Get out of the house, he’s got a gun.”
About 45 people had been invited to the costume party, but about 170 were there when the shooting started about 1 a.m., testified Jacob Snyder, who rented the house.
Hanson was being beaten by a group of large men before Taukitoku’s group arrived. After some members of the UNR football team dragged Hanson into the kitchen, he said Taukitoku “shoved a gun” to his forehead.
“I just put my hands up,” Hanson testified. “I was like, ‘Please man, don’t shoot. Don’t shoot. It is not that serious. Please don’t shoot.'”
Annetria Scott, 19, testified she saw Taukitoku shove the pistol to Hanson’s head. She said Taukitoku shot Kelly, who was standing next to her.
“He kind of pointed the gun around and then kind of picked who he wanted to shoot,” she said. “I remember him stopping at one guy to my left, then he stopped at me and then shot the guy right next to me. His blood actually kind of got on me.”
“He had an evil smirk,” she said of Taukitoku.
Hanson said he did not know the men, Taukitoku, or what prompted the attack.
Snyder said he heard a commotion and noticed the music had stopped. The dance floor had cleared, and guests stood against the walls. Fights were under way in the entry way of the home and in front of the house.
He said he yelled for everyone to leave, and saw Taukitoku holding a gun to Hanson’s head. He stepped in front of Taukitoku, who then pointed the gun at him.
“I just want you to leave,” Snyder told him.
As Taukitoku made his way to the front door, Snyder said he and Jensen walked behind him with their hands up, trying to calm him, and stepped over an unconscious man.
Snyder said Taukitoku fired his gun through a window as he approached the front door and fired another shot at another window.
The fighting spilled into the area in front of the enclosed porch. Manu struck Snyder, who grabbed a shovel and hit Taukitoku in the head or shoulder area. Some witnesses said the blow stunned Taukitoku, while others said it had no effect.
Snyder said he was tackled and beaten after he struck Taukitoku and heard gunshots. He saw Jensen on the ground.
“I looked at him and I knew immediately he was dead,” he said.
Taukitoku, Manu and their two relatives drove away in a GMC Yukon.
Forensic examiners testified the bullets recovered from Jensen and Kelly are consistent with those fired from Taukitoku’s pistol. No bullets were recovered from Viljoen’s body.
Police said each of the victims was shot at least three times.