Teen charged in West Valley City shooting that killed 2 boys, injured 1 admits to manslaughter

The boy will be kept in juvenile detention until he is 21.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) More than a hundred people gather at a candlelight vigil for Hunter High School football players Paul Tahi , 15, Tivani Lopati, 14, and Ephraim Asiata, 15, on Friday, Jan 14, 2022, in West Valley City, near Hunter High School. Paul Tahi and Tivani Lopati were killed in a shooting, while Ephraim Asiata was wounded and hospitalized.

A West Valley City high school student suspected of killing two classmates and wounding another in a January shooting admitted to manslaughter on Monday.

The defendant was 14 at the time of the shooting. He initially faced two counts of murder; two counts of felony discharge of a firearm; and one count each of obstructing justice, possession of a weapon on school premises, and possession of a handgun by a minor, according to charging documents filed in 3rd District Juvenile Court.

But the state filed a new petition in the case on Dec. 5, which superseded the previous charging document. The new petition charged the teen with two counts of manslaughter and one count each of discharge of a firearm resulting in serious injury, discharge of a firearm resulting in injury, obstructing justice, possession of a firearm at school, and possession of a handgun by a minor.

The teen admitted to the manslaughter counts Monday, plus one count of discharging a firearm. The other four charges were dismissed, according to the new petition.

A public information officer for the courts said it was unclear why the state decided to file a new petition in the case. The teen will be kept in juvenile detention until he is 21.

The two boys killed in the Jan. 13 shooting near Hunter High School were Tivani Lopati, 14, and Paul Tahi, 15. A third boy, Ephraim Asiata, was critically wounded and hospitalized.

The defendant will be required to pay restitution to Tahi’s family, and have no contact with Asiata, according to a court clerk’s notes of the Monday hearing in juvenile court. The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not identify juvenile defendants unless they have been certified to stand trial in adult court.

The Jan. 13 shooting near Hunter High School stemmed from a fight between two separate groups of teens, charging documents state. The defendant told police that he and his friends had been harassed by the other group.

A passerby initially broke up the fight a short distance from the school. But farther west on 4100 South, the groups resumed fighting. The defendant told police he then fired a gun into the crowd before running away, documents state.

Authorities later found the handgun that the teen said he had fired next to a residential fence; he told police he had thrown it over the fence as he ran, according to court documents.

All three boys who were shot attended Hunter High School, where they also played football.

A vigil is planned for 3 p.m. Thursday at the Salt Lake County district attorney’s office in protest of the case’s outcome, which organizers said “is not enough to bring closure to the victims nor does it address the issues that caused these events.”

“We demand justice for these victims, accountability from both the education and court system that failed all parties involved, and to prevent this from ever happening again,” organizers said.