Friday, March 30, 2012

COD football player arrested in burglary that led police to kill teammate Friends say Roman Tausaga lived with Frank Tanuvasa, who was killed 12:49 AM, Feb. 25, 2012 |

College of the Desert football player Frank Tanuvasa was shot and killed by Palm Desert police Thursday. / Erik Hill, Anchorage Daily News
Written by
Kate McGinty
The Desert Sun

COD football player Roman Tausaga, arrested Thursday in the burglary the led police to shoot and kill one of his teammates, plays against Mount San Jacinto in a Sept. 19, 2009 game in Palm Desert. / Richard Lui, Desert Sun file photo
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PALM DESERT — A second College of the Desert football player was implicated Friday in the burglary that led police to shoot and kill an athlete.

Roman Tausaga, 22, was arrested on felony burglary and robbery charges Thursday night, Riverside County Sheriff's Department spokesman Angel Ramos said Friday.

Tausaga was one of three suspected burglars spotted running from the Desert Fountains apartment complex in the 77-800 block of Michigan Drive just after midnight Thursday, investigators said.

One of the other men — Frank Tanuvasa, 20, a sophomore on the football team — struggled with a deputy, who pulled out his gun and shot him, Ramos said.

Tausaga and the third man got away and Ramos declined to say Friday whether investigators know his name.

Friends say Tausaga lived with Tanuvasa in Palm Desert. Tausaga was the team's leading tackler in 2009 but sat out last year.

College of the Desert Athletic Director Dean Dowty, who is also head coach of the football team, referred questions Thursday to spokeswoman Pam Hunter.

Hunter did not return a phone message late Friday, but said earlier that it was too soon to discuss any concerns about the program.

In the hours after Tanuvasa was shot and killed, dozens of friends flooded Twitter with messages about the “gentle giant.”

That he was killed during a burglary attempt seemed uncharacteristic for the young man from Anchorage, Alaska, friends said Friday. They said he was known for his impressive afro, his politeness and the hint of his Samoan heritage in the way he talked.

Most of all, though, Tanuvasa was famous for his size: At 6 feet, 6 inches tall and 370 pounds, he had earned the name “Frank the Tank” for his bulldozing of opposing linemen.

At 16, he could bench 325 pounds, according to a 2007 story in the Anchorage Daily News that described Tanuvasa as “bone-crushing,” “colossal” and “gargantuous.”

“Frank Tanuvasa was a good man with a big heart who helped anybody with anything that they needed help with,” said childhood friend Joshua Afatia of Anchorage. “He was a gentle giant and was a heck of a football player.”

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