CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Families of Hunter High shooting victims unhappy with plea deal

Dec 8, 2022, 7:00 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:17 am
The families of three Hunter High shooting victims protested outside the office of Salt Lake County...
The families of three Hunter High shooting victims protested outside the office of Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill on Thursday. Photo credit: Aimee Cobabe, KSL NewsRadio

SALT LAKE CITY — The families and friends of three victims of a shooting outside Hunter High School in January protested Thursday outside of the office of Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

They say their sons didn’t receive justice after a plea bargain was reached with the 15-year-old suspect.

Those in attendance at the rally honked their horns, chanted, carried signs and photos of Paul Tahi, Tivani Lopati and Ephraim Asiata. Tahi and Lopati passed away from the shooting. Asiata was seriously injured.

Those in attendance were wearing black T-shirts that read “Justice 4 All.”

Just outside the exit of the District Attorney’s Office, a banner read, “You failed us.”

Hunter High families upset with the system

Paul’s mother tells KSL NewsRadio she’s not mad at the 15-year-old who took her boy’s life. However, she is upset at the system that she says let the victims down.

“Who are we going to hold accountable if we send our children to school and this is what happens?” she asked.

Paul’s mother also tells KSL NewsRadio that the justice system has let the Polynesian people down.

“Had my son been a white male that had been shot in front of Hunter High School, I’m telling you right now,” she said. “All four individuals would have been taken in and would never have been let go.”

Gill issued a statement to KSL NewsRadio about the event outside his office.

“Family, friends, and our community have suffered a terrible loss,” the statement read. “Their frustration, sadness, and pain are completely valid. This was a matter handled in our juvenile justice system consistent with what the evidence dictated. Whenever there is a loss of life we will only ever be able to achieve imperfect justice. Perfect justice would have been the loss never occurring in the first place. Our condolences for those hurting from this tragedy.”

The 15-year-old received a plea deal earlier this week. He will spend the next six years in juvenile detention. When he reaches 21, he’ll be released without a criminal record. 

Mark Jones contributed to this article.

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Families of Hunter High shooting victims unhappy with plea deal