2 kids killed, 1 wounded in West Valley City shooting between high school students, police say

The shooting stemmed from a fight between two groups of students, police said.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Onlookers console one another as police investigate a fatal shooting near Hunter High School in West Valley City Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.

Two high school students were fatally shot, and a third was wounded Thursday in West Valley City, police said.

The shooting happened on the sidewalk along 4100 South, between the northbound and southbound lanes of Mountain View Corridor, according to West Valley City police.

The two students killed were 14-year-old Tivani Lopati and 15-year-old Paul Tahi, both students at Hunter High School, police said.

The wounded student was 15 and was hospitalized in critical condition. Police didn’t release that student’s name, but Granite School District tweeted a statement identifying the teen as Ephraim Asiata and said he attends Hunter High.

“Principal [Ryan] Oaks recently spoke with the Asiata family and they indicated that [Ephraim] remains in critical condition and the family would appreciate prayers [on] behalf of their son, nephew and cousin,” the statement reads.

“As a school and district community, we also ask that you keep the families of Paul Tahi and Tivani Lopati in your hearts, thoughts and prayers and that we work to support them in any way we can,” the statement continued. “There are many children and families who are struggling this evening as a result of this senseless tragedy.”

A 14-year-old boy whom officers suspect to be the shooter was booked into juvenile detention, police tweeted Thursday night. Three others were questioned and then released.

The shooting stemmed from a fight between two groups of high school students, West Valley City police spokesperson Roxanne Vainuku said at a Thursday news conference. The students involved knew each other, she added.

Police recovered a gun they believe is connected to the shooting, West Valley City police tweeted.

On Thursday afternoon, numerous people gathered in groups near the scene on the lawn of the Latter-day Saint seminary building at the edge of the high school’s campus, as well as on the sidewalk along 4100 South.

From behind crime scene tape, they watched as investigators examined the shooting site. Children played on the nearby seminary lawn, chasing one another and playing a clapping game, undeterred by the brisk wind and the somber scene.

Many onlookers hugged each other, some crying, some scrolling on their phones. A few stood wrapped in flannel blankets.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Onlookers watch as police investigate a shooting near Hunter High School in West Valley City Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.

When approached by a reporter from The Salt Lake Tribune, one woman said she didn’t know any students at Hunter High. “We’re just here to support,” she said.

A man and a woman in separate groups both said they were there because their nephew had been involved in the shooting. On the sidewalk, another woman cried as someone hugged her tightly, her wails filling the cold air.

The shooting happened along a major thoroughfare, bordered by weedy plots of open land on either side. Two smaller crime scenes in nearby neighborhoods were under investigation as well, Vainuku said.

Hunter High School students were released early for the day at 1 p.m. after sheltering in place as a precautionary measure. No extracurricular activities were held Thursday. Hunter High is located at 4200 S. 5600 West, just east of where the fight broke out.

Three other schools — Hunter Junior High, Hillside Elementary and Whittier Elementary — also sheltered in place, but protocols were lifted by about noon.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Police investigate a shooting near Hunter High School in West Valley City Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.

In a letter to parents, principal Oaks said grief counselors were available to support students at Hunter High School and Hunter Junior High. The school’s crisis team also will be available Friday, Oaks said.

The Hunter High School girls and boys varsity basketball teams had been scheduled to play against Roy High School on Friday, but Roy High on Thursday afternoon announced all games against Hunter would be rescheduled for Feb. 9, because of the shooting.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with the West Valley & Hunter High School communities,” a statement read.

More information on the circumstances of the fight that lead to the shooting was not released. Police continue to investigate.