Man charged in gang-related shooting that killed 14-year-old

|Courtesy of Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office Frank Tsinnijinnie

An 18-year-old man was charged Monday with shooting and killing a 14-year-old boy in West Valley City earlier this month.

Frank Tsinnijinnie, of West Valley City, faces one count of first-degree murder with an enhancement for gang activity, after he fired several shots at a truck and killed Romeo Rodriguez just after 3 a.m. on Aug. 3, charging documents say.

Rodriguez was riding in the truck with four other people — all of whom are reportedly associated with his same gang but none of whom were armed — when they drove past Kings Point Park, 1330 W. Rothchild Drive, witnesses told police.

The park is considered territory of a rival street gang, a witness told police, and as the truck was traveling near the park, it encountered a group of three teens from the rival gang, who had come from a nearby house a short time before the encounter.

One of the three, Tsinnijinnie, was on a bicycle and had allegedly brought a 9 mm pistol to the park with him, charges say. As the truck approached, he reportedly said, ”What’s up?” to the truck’s occupants, charges state. Someone from inside the truck replied ”What’s up?” and Tsinnijinnie told the person he was with to duck, a witness told police.

As the truck’s driver saw Tsinnijinnie reach for a gun, she started to drive away, charges say.

The person with Tsinnijinnie dropped down behind the alleged shooter and heard several gunshots, he told police. Other witnesses told police they heard five to six gunshots and saw muzzle flashes coming from Tsinnijinnie. No witnesses reported seeing any gunshots from the truck.

A bullet hit Rodriguez in the head. Police found a bullet hole in the rear drivers side window of the truck and two bullet impact points on the tailgate, charges state.

After the truck sped away, Tsinnijinnie reportedly picked up bullet casings from the road, witnesses said.

The truck’s driver took Rodriguez to the hospital, where he later died.

In addition to the murder charge, Tsinnijinnie faces two counts of felony discharge of a firearm and obstructing justice, all second-degree felonies. 

Tsinnijinnie is being held at the Salt Lake County jail in lieu of $1 million, cash only. An initial appearance was scheduled for Friday in 3rd District Court.