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Vigil held for teens who were killed outside Hunter High after shooter gets plea deal

Posted at 9:52 PM, Dec 08, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — Lata tahi wants something to come out of her son Paul’s death.

“Justice for all, not just three boys," she said. "It's justice for all.”

Almost a year ago, Tivani Lopati and Paul Tahi were shot and killed outside Hunter High School in West Valley City. Ephraim Asiata was also shot, critically wounded and hospitalized. The shooter, who was 14 at the time, was initially charged with two counts of felony murder. In a juvenile court hearing Monday, the teen admitted to manslaughter. He will serve six years in a juvenile detention facility.

Sinia Maile, and other members of Paul's family, decided to hold a vigil, which turned into a vocal protest, outside the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office Thursday afternoon.

“I thought it was just going to be my family coming out here," she said. "But our community really did show out. I think it just comes from being a culture of community.”

The family of Tivani Lopati wrote this statement, following the plea deal Monday:

"The last 72 hours have been excruciating for our family. On Monday, we listened in disbelief as our son's shooter admitted to reduced charges and was sentenced to juvenile detention. While we would not want any other family to go through the loss of a child, we are greatly disappointed with the leniency of the sentence, which is not proportional to the gravity of the crime that was committed. While the court may have ruled that this case is closed, this miscarriage of justice has not provided us with any closure. We miss Tivani. We cry every day, but the full extent of our pain and heartbreak is not visible. We feel let down by a system that has not carried out justice. We feel mistreated by court staff who made us feel as if our grieving family was an unwelcome threat within the courtroom. We cannot help but feel that the legal proceedings would have been conducted differently, and that the outcome of this case would have been different, if Tivani, Paula, and Ephraim had been white, or upper class, or lived in a neighborhood on the other side of the valley. While we are deeply saddened and disappointed with the systems that failed to deliver justice for our son, we continue to advocate for action and investment to proactively address issues with a focus on prevention, rather than reacting to violence when it's too late. We will never stop fighting for justice, for our son, for Paula, Ephraim, and on behalf of all families who live with the unimaginable trauma of having their child's life taken without justice being served."

Ephraim’s mother wrote the following statement for FOX 13 via Instagram post:

"NO APOLOGY CAN BRING BACK THE LIVES YOU TAKEN. THE SYSTEM ONCE AGAIN HAS FAILED TO GIVE JUSTICE FOR OUR FAMILY THE LOPATI AND BLOOMFIELD FAMILY. YOU SCARRED MY SON FOR LIFE AND DAYUM NEAR TOOK HIS LIFE. THE AMOUNT OF SURGERYS HE HAD TO GO THROUGH TO STAY ALIVE, WHILE YOU SIT THERE PROTECTED AND ACTING LIKE YOUR A GOOD KID GIVES ME NO SYMPATHY FOR YOU…. MY SON NEEDED A TRANSPLANT BECAUSE OF YOU (Pancreas, Liver & small intestine)… ALL NEW ORGANS AND A TOTALLY NEW ANATOMY… TUBES COMING OUT OF HIS BODY…THESE BOYS HAD A FUTURE IN FOOTBALL AND YOU TOOK THAT AWAY… ARE YOU GOING TO PAY FOR THE DAMAGES?!? U TOOK A GUN ON CAMPUS FOR A REASON, AND IT WAS TO USE IT. YOU ALSO HAD HALLOW POINT BULLETS LOADED WHICH IS MADE TO KILL…. IT WASNT JUST A REGULAR BULLET… YOU DID NOT MISS ONE SINGLE SHOT FIRED AND AFTER YOU SHOT OUR BOYS YOU AND YOUR GROUP OF FRIENDS KICKED MY SON IN HIS HEAD WHILE HE WAS DOWN AND TOOK OFF FROM THE SCENE….

WHERES THE DAYUM JUSTICE SALTLAKE CITY?!? WE ARE SO SORRY TIVANI AND PAUL WE WILL CONTINUE KEEP FIGHTING FOR YOU "

The Polynesian community needs to stop being seen as a threat, said Maile.

“It’s not your kids dying, it's ours," she said. "So this is one of the issues we want to just keep fighting for.”