Family of slain Utah teenager 'devastated' as police search for killer
The music died with Sione Fakatoufifita.
The young West Valley City teenager who was gunned down in Salt Lake City on Saturday night was remembered as a talented piano player, who often provided music to the tight-knitTongan church congregation he was part of in West Valley City.
His aunt, Angie Samani, said the 19-year-old played piano for two different wards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was there for Sunday services, choir practices and he also played for two Primary classes, the church's meetings for children.
"He was such a well-rounded person," Samani said.
But Fakatoufifita wasn't there to play for his ward on Sunday, just a day after he was shot and killed by a suspect still being sought by the Salt Lake City Police Department.
Fakatoufifita was shot at about 1:15 a.m. on Saturday at a Maverik gas station, 1680 S. Redwood Road. On Saturday, police described the suspect as a Polynesian man wearing a black hoodie over a white T-shirt and dark-colored jeans.
Witnesses reportedly saw the suspect run northeast across Redwood Road after the shooting, where he was almost hit by a car. Investigators were searching for the driver of that vehicle. On Monday, police offered no more updates on the case and declined to say whether the shooting was gang-related.
Bishop Kono Lotulelei of the Hunter 13th Ward, said Sunday services at the church's meetinghouse on 3175 S. 3450 West were somber just a day after Fakatoufifita's death.
Fakatoufifita's family attends another ward that meets in the chapel at a different time than Lotulelei's, but the ecclesiastical leader said he had known Fakatoufifita since the young man was just a child. The last time Lotulelei saw him, Fakatoufifita was at church with his parents.
"He's a very, very good boy," Lotulelei said.
Lotulelei acknowledged that the teenager fell in with a "wrong crowd" a couple of years back but said Fakatoufifita had been coming to church more regularly in the past year and seemed to be doing better.
Lotulelei said he had no idea why someone would shoot Fakatoufifita. He didn't dwell on that, but instead he remembered Fakatoufifita's talents and contributions to his church family. In Salt Lake City's LDS Tongan Stake, a collection of Tongan wards in the area, Fakatoufifita often played piano in stake meetings, including at a stake conference just last month.
"I was in the choir, and he was the one who played piano in the choir," Lotulelei said.
Samani said her nephew made mistakes like any teenager, but that he was a good person despite his shortcomings. Besides his talent on piano, Fakatoufifita played football for Granger High School. Samani said he doted on his nieces, nephews and younger cousins and was helpful around his family.
"He loved his family very much," she said.
Samani said that Fakatoufifita was engaged to be married on May 4. Samani said she didn't know his fiancee very well, but that he seemed happy and excited for the wedding. Now Fakatoufifita's parents are planning a funeral instead. He was their only child.
A viewing is scheduled for Friday and funeral services and burial are set to take place on Saturday.
"Our whole family is devastated by this loss," Samani said. "We loved him very much."
Police seeking information
Anyone with information about the shooting of Sione Fakatoufifita is urged to contact Salt Lake City police at 801-799-3000. Anonymous tips also can be left via text message by sending "TIPSLCPD" plus information to CRIMES (274637). Reference case number 13-55427.