SAN MATEO, Calif. (KRON) — San Mateo police detectives traveled to opposites ends of the country to apprehend men suspected of shooting a 2-year-old child in the face and murdering the child’s father.
The San Mateo Police Department spent 18 months trying to identify and find the men responsible for carrying out a “premeditated execution-style shooting.”
The shooting occurred on the morning of Oct. 30, 2020 on Eleanor Drive in San Mateo.
One of the victims, Ueta Muasika Jr., was ambushed in the driveway of his home and shot 14 times in front of his son, Police Chief Ed Barberini said.
Muasika, 30, was trying to buckle his son into a car seat to take him to school when the ambush happened, the police chief said.
“The audacious attack also left Muasika’s 2-year-old son suffering from a gunshot wound to his face. Officers rendered aid to the child, and paramedics transported him to a local trauma center,” according to police.
Muasika died from his injuries. The child miraculously survived.
The suspected killers went into hiding on opposite sides of the United States.
On Monday, multiple law enforcement agencies arrested John “Talia” Paasi in Charlotte, North Carolina and arrested Isileli Mahe in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Paasi, 29, and Mahe, 30, will be extradited to San Mateo County to face homicides charges.
“This attack was personal and targeted. Mr. Paasi and the victim had known each other for over 15 years,” Barberini said.
Investigators believe that the killing of Muasika was connected to the 2019 murder of Susan Tonga. Tonga was an 85-year-old grandmother who was murdered in an arson fire.
The fire ignited at Tonga’s family home in February of 2019. Four people inside were able to escape the flames, but Tonga didn’t make it out in time.
Fifita Tau was identified as the suspected arsonist and is currently behind bars in San Mateo County Jail on murder charges.
Chief Barbernini declined to say why Paasi and Mahe allegedly targeted Muasika out of revenge for the grandmother’s death.
“But we do believe that played a role in the motive of this most current homicide,” Barbernini said.
Police said finding Paasi and Mahe was no small task.
SMPD wrote, “San Mateo Police Department Detectives worked with investigators and attorneys from the San Mateo District Attorney’s Office, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Special Investigation Bureau Violent Criminal Apprehension Team, and Special Agents from the FBI Honolulu Division to apprehend these extremely dangerous criminals. We extend our profound appreciation to our law enforcement partners for their combined efforts in helping SMPD identify and locate these suspects.”