WEST VALLEY CITY — As the investigation continues in the homicide of 19-year-old Neko Jardine, his parents are speaking out for the first time in hopes of finding answers.
Friends and family came together Saturday in a peaceful protest at Hunter High School where Neko’s grandmother taught for several years.
Dressed in green and gold, the colors of Nekos’ high school football team, Kearns, about 100 people walked to the home where Neko was fatally wounded on July 14.
“The pain, I can’t even explain that. I lost my baby boy to something, to a to gun violence, and he never talked about guns, never touched one,” said Lesieli Vehikite, Neko’s mom, as she refuted assumptions that Neko was involved in gang activity.
Neko’s family suspects he got caught in the cross hairs of a fight instigated by gang members at the house party, located in the area of 5625 West 4360 South in West Valley City.
Friends and students said that Neko was the kind to stand-up for others.
Brandi Marteliz shared how he had protected her son from being bullied, “He just had a light that shone so brightly.”
“People that were at the party were like how? Out of everybody at the party that was the last guy,” Neko’s dad Jason Jardin expressed, “He was the nicest guy there, it doesn’t make sense.”
“A friend was in trouble that night. He went and helped him and he got the worst end of it,” Vehikite added.
According to a friend of Neko’s who says she left the party shortly before shots rang out, a group of seven people showed up uninvited and a brawl ensued. The friend’s mom asked that she not be identified to protect her.
“Which still breaks my heart so much because I would’ve stayed out there with him,” the friend shared.
According to an update in the case released by West Valley City Police, “It is estimated that 30-40 people were inside the home where a house party was occurring that night. As many as 15-20 may have been outside and witnessed the shooting. Many of those party-goers fled without talking to police and have not come forward to help in the case.”
“I want his friends to come out and be his friends and stand up and not to be scared because it is never going to stop,” said Jason Jardine.
It’s why his parents are asking witnesses, to do as Neko would’ve done: the right thing.
“My kid is dead. He can’t come out and play anymore. There’s a lot of little kids here who need to be out playing and living a life and they aren’t going to as long as these kind of cowards are allowed to run the streets and that is what they are doing right now,” said Sherry Jardine, Neko’s grandma.
In their statement West Valley City police added, “We ask anyone who has not yet spoke to us to please come forward. The information you provide can be given anonymously and there are ways to protect the information that is given. If someone gave a false statement in the initial aftermath of the shooting, we invite you to please, come back and correct it.”
Anyone with information may call 801-840-4000 or lease a message on the Tip-a-Cop line at 802-963-3459.
A GoFundMe account is still active to help cover funeral expenses for Neko.