Hunter High shooting victim family speaks out after court ruling

Dec 7, 2022, 10:53 PM | Updated: Dec 8, 2022, 8:23 am

The family of one of the victims in the Hunter High shooting is speaking out after a judge sentenced the teen who killed their son and another student to juvenile detention on lesser charges.

The Jan. 13 shooting around the corner from the high school killed 14-year-old Tivani Lopati and 15-year-old Paul Tahi, and left 15-year-old Ephraim Asiata with life-altering injuries.

Tivani’s family said Wednesday they were in “disbelief” while hearing the ruling in court Monday, and felt disappointed and saddened.

The now-15-year-old suspect admitted to two charges of manslaughter and one charge of discharge of a firearm, instead of the original murder charges he faced.

All other charges were dismissed.

Prosecutors decided not to push for moving the case to adult court, and the teen didn’t argue self-defense as his attorneys said he would.

The teen is expected to be released from juvenile detention when he’s 21, and will not have an adult record.

“The last 72 hours have been excruciating for our family. On Monday, we listened in disbelief as our son’s shooter admitted to reduced charges and was sentenced to juvenile detention,” said Jake Fitisemanu Jr. Wednesday evening, reading the Lopati family’s statement.

He relayed the pain and heartbreak that the family put into words on paper.

“While we would not want any other family to go through the loss of a child, we are greatly disappointed with the leniency of the sentence, which is not proportional to the gravity of the crime that was committed,” he said. “While the court may have ruled that this case is closed, this miscarriage of justice has not provided us with any closure.”

The family said they miss Tivani and cry every day, but their pain and heartbreak aren’t visible.

“We feel let down by a system that has not carried out justice,” he said. “We feel mistreated by court staff who made us feel as if our grieving family was an unwelcome threat within the courtroom.”

The Lopati family said they can’t help but feel the legal proceedings would have been conducted differently, and that, “the outcome of this case would have been different, if Tivani, Paula, and Ephraim had been white, or upper class, or lived in a neighborhood on the other side of the valley.”

Mixed with words of frustration, the family expressed a desire for change.

“While we are deeply saddened and disappointed with the systems that failed to deliver justice for our son, we continue to advocate for action and investment to proactively address issues with a focus on prevention, rather than reacting to violence when it’s too late,” Fitisemanu Jr. said.

They also expressed a promise, that even if the court case is over– their battle, isn’t.

“We will never stop fighting for justice, for our son, for Paula, Ephraim, and on behalf of all families who live with the unimaginable trauma of having their child’s life taken without justice being served.”

After the Lopati family released their formal statement Wednesday, Utah State Courts addressed the family’s statements about mistreatment by court staff:

“We take all cases seriously, especially cases of this magnitude. Our judges and staff strive to treat everyone in our courtrooms with dignity and respect and we are concerned to hear that the Lopati family felt mistreated. We are always open to feedback and will reach out to learn more about their experience.”

A vigil is planned for Paula, Tivani, and Ephraim in front of the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office on Thursday at 3 p.m. Organizers said they plan to demand justice for the victims, and accountability from both the education and court system.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

(KSL TV)...
Michael Houck

Police: Man threatening neighbors with knife, leads officers in multi-agency chase

A man is in police custody after "waving" a knife around bystanders and fleeing from police Friday evening.
21 hours ago
Presenters at the Health Relationship Youth Summit asking for final questions. (KSL-TV's Mark Less)...
Alex Cabrero

Utah teens learn more about healthy relationships at youth summit

Teenagers gathered at a Healthy Relationship Youth Summit to learn more about the signs of unhealthy relationships and be able to identify them.
21 hours ago
snow covered bowl in Utah mountains...
Michael Houck

Woman hit by snowmobile while tubing near Peter Sinks, flown to U of U hospital

First responders treated a woman hit by a snowmobile while tubing near the Peter Sinks area Saturday afternoon.
21 hours ago
For 29 years, Mike Skogerboe has been to nearly every girls and boys basketball game, and nearly ev...
Mike Anderson

Fremont High School helps support their superfan

Students and teachers at Fremont High School teamed up to help out their superfan who rarely misses a game.
21 hours ago
Charles Alires, 34, was stabbed to death Thursday afternoon on Main Street in Salt Lake City. (KSL...
Brooke Williams

One SLC stabbing suspect in custody, police searching for another

Police are asking the public for help in the search for a second suspect in a fatal stabbing.
21 hours ago
Man accused of exposing himself at Utah store...
Shara Park

Man accused of exposing himself to underage girls at Utah store

The owner of Rad Swim in Highland is warning Utah families after she says a man exposed himself to her associate and several young girls in her store Monday evening.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Hunter High shooting victim family speaks out after court ruling