Teen charged with two counts of murder in West Valley shooting

Jan 26, 2022, 3:18 PM | Updated: Mar 7, 2022, 2:42 pm

WEST VALLEY CITY— A teenage boy is being charged with two counts of murder after allegedly shooting and killing 14-year-old Tivani Lopati and 15-year-old Paul Tahi court documents state.

Since the accused shooter is a minor, KSL TV will not be using his name.

According to court documents, just after 11 a.m., police officers arrived at 4100 South Mountain View and found Lopati and Tahi dead from gunshot wounds and transferred a third teen, 15-year-old Ephraim Asiata to Intermountain Medical Center with one gunshot wound to his abdomen.

Investigators found four .40 S&W casings near where the shooting occurred along with a S& W .40 caliber gun on the other side of a residential fence. They originally took multiple teens into custody.

Witnesses said there was a physical fight between two groups ending with the shots being fired.

Court documents outline how one person police initially took into custody told them, “he and his friends had been involved in a dispute for more than a year with a group that included the deceased males,” and that on the day before the shooting members of the rival group “told him he would be beaten up if he returned to school the next day.”

That person told police he brought a gun to school the next day in response to that threat.

During the suspect’s interview, the suspect told police “he and his group of friends had been harassed by a group of Tongan males at school and his friend [name redacted] stated he would fight the males one-on-one.”

The teens taken into custody and the suspect each told detectives that the two groups walked away from Hunter High and started fighting.

A passerby shouted at them to stop, multiple witnesses reported, and the groups initially separated.

As one group began to walk away, boys from the other group, “jumped them” court documents state. During the chaos, the teen who reported being threatened heard gun shots and ran- throwing the gun he brought to school into a nearby ditch. Officers recovered a loaded 9mm near where this boy was taken into custody.

The suspect stated that when the “group reengaged to continue the fight,” after the passerby had broken them up previously, he “began shooting into the crowd before running away.” He later admitted to throwing the S&W .40 caliber handgun he had used, over the fence.

While police took a group of teens into custody early on, everyone aside from the 14-year-old accused shooter was released and at this time do not face charges.

On Jan. 14, Dr. Stanley, Assistant Medical Examiner with the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner, performed an autopsy and concluded the manner of death for both Lopati and Tahi was homicide due to their gunshot wounds.

After a court hearing Wednesday where Judge Mark May read the charges and set a future court date, Tivani’s family released this statement:

“Communicating through family spokesman, Jake Fitisemanu, the Lopati-Maumau family shared the following statement: ‘As a family, we trust and are very supportive of the justice system. We would like to express our love and acknowledge Principal Oaks and Hunter High School, Councilman Fitisemanu, our WVC community, family and friends near and far for their love and support. It has brought us closer together as a family and has made this tragic incident somewhat bearable today. Our hearts and prayers are with the Tahi and Asiata families. Our focus is to celebrate our son’s last days here with us. Alofa atu (with love).’ “

Prosecutors have charged the teen with two counts of murder, discharge of a firearm with serious injury, discharge of a firearm with injury, obstructing justice, possession of a dangerous weapon on school premises, possession by minor of handgun.

State prosecutors are attempting to try him as an adult in this case.

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Teen charged with two counts of murder in West Valley shooting