SLAYINGS AT SEA
Court documentsA mutiny on a Taiwanese fishing vessel ended when crew members overpowered murder suspect Shi Lei during a dramatic confrontation on the ship's bridge two days after Shi allegedly fatally stabbed the ship's captain and first mate, according to documents filed in federal court.
reveal details of
The accounts show what happened
before and after 2 stabbings
By Craig Gima
The documents -- a witness account given to the FBI and a statement on facts of the case prepared by the U.S. Attorney's Office -- give details on how a perceived demotion and simmering resentment may have led to a double murder in the middle of the Pacific, 800 miles south of Hawaii.
They also outline what happened after the alleged killings of captain Chen Chong She and first mate Li Da Feng and how the crew regained control of the Full Means No. 2.
The crew retook the fishing vessel on the morning of March 16 after a shipmate from Shi's village in China told Shi about a plot to use some sort of device to electrocute him, according to the documents.
Shi, who was brandishing a 2.5-foot-long fish knife and had two other knives around his waist, went looking for Tang Chun Pei, who was said to have devised the electrocution plan, according to second mate Xiong Yan Long's statement to the FBI.
While Xiong and other crew members pleaded with Shi not to kill Tang, Shi called for Tang to come up to the bridge, Xiong said. Tang went to the lower entrance of the bridge several times but would not go up to meet Shi.
When Shi was not paying attention, the crew members on the bridge attacked him, Xiong told the FBI through a translator. Crew member Wang Tao disarmed Shi, and the other men on the bridge tied Shi up, he said.
Wang Fu Xiang, who tipped Shi to the plot against him, jumped off the ship afraid that the rest of the crew would hurt him, but Xiong brought him back on board, according to Xiong's statement. Wang is being held in solitary confinement, separated from the other detainees at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu.
Shi had been demotedAccording to the U.S. attorney, crew members described Shi as a person who was "easily upset and fought with other crew members." Captain Chen was described as "a man concerned about safety first, who did not go out of his way to either please crew members or to be cruel to them." He was the only Taiwanese on the ship. The other 30 crew and ship's officers were from mainland China.
The Full Means No. 2 had been out to sea for a year. Xiong said the mood on the ship was good.
Shi, the ship's cook, had a cordial relationship with the captain and spent his free time on the bridge learning about navigation. But crew members complained about the food and unsanitary conditions.
Chen removed Shi from the kitchen about two days before the stabbings, the U.S. attorney said. Shi's new job involved working with other crew members on deck pulling fishing nets. He was not happy with the new assignment, and, by Shi's own account, he approached Chen and asked to go home to China.
The night of March 14The court documents give the following account of the night of the alleged murders:
In the early evening of March 14, Chen confronted Shi, who was not working with the rest of the crew, and hit him several times in the head and face. The crew heard Chen order Shi back to work. Shi verbally resisted.
Xiong said that he had heard that the captain told Shi to straighten out hooks, and Shi did not comply.
Shi then went into a storage room containing knives and other fishing gear, according to crewman Zhang Hongli.
Several hours later at about 10 p.m., as most of the crew were pulling fishing nets on the lower deck, they heard the captain and first mate scream.
Second mate Xiong went up the stairs to the bridge and saw first mate Li clutching his stomach and bleeding heavily from the stomach. "Shi Lei killed me," Li said, according to Xiong.
Xiong entered the bridge and saw Shi holding a 10-inch knife and blood all over the bridge floor. Chen was standing with blood dripping from his chest. The captain did not say anything but went to the room behind the bridge and turned on the radio. Xiong asked him who he was trying to call, but Xiong said Chen was too weak to operate the radio. The captain returned to the bridge and collapsed underneath another radio in the control area.
Xiong tried to use that radio to call for help, saying: "Taiwan ship. Taiwan ship." But he did not know how to operate the radio, and there was no answer.
Shi returned to the bridge with a bloody knife in one had and angrily confronted Xiong, saying: "You want to call Taiwan ship? Get out."
Shi ordered the other crew members to take the captain's body and throw it overboard and then ordered them to clean up the blood on the bridge. Xiong said he does not know who threw the captain's body overboard, because he was too scared to look up.
After Shi took over the ship, he ordered Xiong and two engineers to operate the Full Means No. 2. He told them to just go forward, Xiong said. He recalled Shi yelling that he would kill whoever disobeyed him. Later Shi ordered the crew to sail to China and said that once they got there, he would run away.
Shi remained on the bridge and used the captain's quarters. Witnesses recalled hearing him say, "I killed the captain. I am not going to kill you. Just continue doing what you are doing, and I am not going to do anything to you."
Below deck, Li Da Yon, the brother of first mate Li Da Feng, and another crew member, Hua Su Yuan, assisted Li Da Feng. Despite attempts to save his life, Li Da Feng died 12 hours after the stabbing. Fearing that his brother's body also would be thrown overboard, Li Da Yon hid it in a freezer.
Getting helpAfter the crew regained control of the Full Means No. 2, they discussed the situation and decided to head north to Hawaii. No one on board knew how to use the radio to call for help.
Meanwhile, the owner of the ship asked the Coast Guard for help because they had not heard from the Full Means No. 2 for two days. On March 19 a Coast Guard C-130 detected the fishing vessel about 180 miles south-southeast of Hilo.
The Coast Guard cutter Kiska intercepted the ship about 60 miles away from the Big Island. The crew shot off a red flare and prepared the ship for boarding, but because of rough seas, the cutter did not attempt to board the Full Means No. 2.
Later in the day, about 13 miles from the Big Island, two crew members jumped ship and were picked up by the Coast Guard. One of the men carried a letter, written in Chinese, addressed to the Hawaii government. The letter, signed by 27 of the crew, asked for help and summarized what had happened on the ship.
BACK TO TOP