Friends and teammates remember fallen coach, mentor, friend
With the release of the identity of the Golden Hill murder victim, Vaafuti Togiailua, we learned Monday that one of the best rugby teams in America has lost a coach, several players have lost a mentor, fellow OMBAC members lost a brother, we all lost a Marine who served his country… and a seven-year-old boy lost a father.
With their time-honored traditional salute, nearly 300 members of the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club paid homage to their fallen brother on Monday. For many of them, it was the first they’d heard of the death of the man they called “Va,” star player and assistant coach of the formidable OMBAC rugby team. One of his best friends, team head coach Jason Wood, bore the burden of breaking the news to the team.
Forty-one-year-old Vaafuti Togiailua was reportedly on his way to work at about 6:40am on the morning of November 4th. He had stopped on 26th Street in the Golden Hill District. That’s when someone one a motorcycle rolled up beside the car and opened fire, pumping at least four shots through the driver’s side window, hitting the helpless Togiailua several times in his massive upper body.
The investigation began immediately. Witnesses told San Diego Police homicide detectives the man on the older-model motorcycle was wearing a gray jumpsuit and a full-faced helmet. As police searched for his killer, his friends rallied, raising enough money to fly his family from Hawaii and Samoa to San Diego.
Togiailua joined the Marines as a young man, came to the mainland to pursue the American dream, graduated from college and had a family. He leaves behind a 7-year-old son. Now that’s he’s gone, his friends are working to raise money to send his body back to his island home, to be buried on Samoan soil.