Man arrested in connection with downtown Salt Lake City nightclub shooting last summer

Mar 23, 2024, 6:18 PM

A Salt Lake City police officer responds to a deadly shooting near 60 W. Market Street on June 4, 2...

A Salt Lake City police officer responds to a deadly shooting near 60 W. Market Street on June 4, 2023. (Salt Lake City Police Department)

(Salt Lake City Police Department)

SALT LAKE CITY — Police say they arrested a 23-year-old man Friday for the shooting death of another at the New Yorker nightclub downtown last summer.

Molitoni Fisiki Vainuku left his home and got into a car Friday when Salt Lake City Police Department’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Team “quickly and safely took him into custody,” according to a police statement, and “at the time of his arrest, detectives located a firearm.” They were tipped off to Vainuku’s location in West Valley City earlier that day.

Detectives booked Vainuku into the Salt Lake County Metro Jail just before 7 p.m. Friday, for investigation of murder.

“This arrest comes after a lengthy investigation,” Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said in a statement. “The web of violence connected to this one case kept people in our community living in fear of retaliation. I hope that fear is now broken.”

On June 4, 2023, Salt Lake City police responded to multiple calls of a shooting in a parking lot outside of the New Yorker Social Club, 60 W. Market Street, shortly after 4 a.m., according to Salt Lake City police spokesman Brent Weisberg.

He said officers were in the downtown area at the time and arrived about a minute after the first call came in to find a man who had been shot. “It was a very chaotic scene,” he said. “Our officers found multiple community members down on the ground providing life-saving efforts to this individual who had been shot.”

Officers took over those efforts, but Halapaini Latu Moala, 22, was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting.

Early in the investigation, Brown said homicide detectives were having trouble finding witnesses who were willing to talk.

“They’re getting little cooperation from the people who witnessed this shooting,” he said. “There are people who know who the shooter is, and they are not coming forward, either because they are scared or because they are intentionally trying to hinder this case.”

While Salt Lake’s gang unit and homicide squad worked to identify the shooter, the department also had to increase the number of officers patrolling that area, and have them work later into the evening and early morning hours. During the investigation, Brown said he didn’t not know specifically what was driving the violent episodes in the Market Street area, but noted that a “deadly recipe of tempers, alcohol, drugs and guns” seems to take over some people, preventing them from simply walking away from a confrontation.

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Man arrested in connection with downtown Salt Lake City nightclub shooting last summer