POSTED: 06:27 p.m. HST, May 21, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 04:35 a.m. HST, May 22, 2012
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa >> A firefighter was charged with manslaughter and vehicular homicide in the death of his 1-year-old son nearly two years ago in American Samoa.
Juliano Tavale, a veteran of the Department of Public Safety, was charged Friday. His defense attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Tavale initially told an emergency room doctor that his son fell off a chair then later hit his head on the dashboard of his pickup truck and passed out, authorities said.
The boy was placed on life support and died the next day.
Police later received a July 2010 report from Dr. James Marone, an emergency room doctor at LBJ Medical Center, who suspected child abuse. His report said the boy was almost totally unresponsive and barely breathing, and that there were several bruises on his upper body and legs.
Court documents say Tavale later broke down and cried, telling police he picked up his son from his sister's house and put him in the truck without a child restraint seat.
While trying to keep his crying son from crawling to the driver's side of the speeding truck, he accidentally hit the brakes and swerved, causing the boy to hit the back of his head on the dash board, he told police, according to the documents.
The boy was then thrown toward the passenger side of the truck and hit his forehead on the door, authorities said. Tavale stopped the truck and tried to resuscitate his son, who was unconscious and not moving, the documents state.
Asked about the boy's bruises, Tavale said he accidentally slapped his son hard several times before the incident, the documents said.