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Teenage shooter suspected of killing 2 teens, critically injuring another

KUTV Salt Lake City logo KUTV Salt Lake City 1/14/2022 Jeremy Harris, KUTV
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Investigators say a 14-year-old boy has been booked into juvenile detention after shooting three other teenagers near Hunter High School in West Valley City.

The identity of the teen suspect has not been released, but West Valley City Police confirmed Thursday night that the deceased victims are Paula "Paul" Tahi, 15, and Tivani Lopati, 14, both students at Hunter High. 

The Granite School District identified the third shooting victim as 14-year-old Ephraim Asiata. He remained in the hospital in critical condition, according to police.

Investigators said the shooting took place close to the Hunter High School campus in the intersection of 4100 South and Mountain View Corridor. Students were on their lunch hour, said Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsley.

“Our hearts are broken that this has occurred,” Horsley said. “This is a major incident and appears to be a great tragedy, we do have grief counselors available for our students and staff, they will be here the rest of the afternoon and even tomorrow.”

Investigators recovered a gun from a neighborhood nearby the shooting. 

West Valley City Police indicated there was a dispute between two groups of students, but did not say if the shooting was gang-related.

“Two groups who know each other, there was some sort of physical altercation that escalated into a shooting. What I do know is that this was not a drive-by situation, that these people actually had this altercation on the sidewalk,” police spokesperson Roxeanne Vainuku said.

Police initially detained four teenagers in connection to the shooting, but said three had been released after questioning.

School safety expert Kenneth Trump of National School Safety and Security Services told 2News that what happened in West Valley City reflects a national issue with teen gun violence. 

“The reality is our schools today are a microcosm of the communities they serve - the conflicts, the violence, the destruction and disputes will spill over into the school,” he said.

Trump said accessible reporting tools, like the SafeUT app, are critical in identifying and preventing shootings involving teens. 

“The best first line of defense is a well-trained, highly alert staff and student body. We need to make sure they feel comfortable to come forward because they are the ones who know about what’s going on, who might have a weapon,” he said.

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