Judge finds accused guilty of murdering Calgary CFL football player

CALGARY — A judge has found a man guilty of second-degree murder in the slaying of a Calgary Stampeders football player.

Nelson Lugela, 21, was charged after Mylan Hicks was shot outside the Marquee Beer Market in Calgary in September 2016.

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Justice Keith Yamauchi said he looked at all the evidence and was confident beyond a reasonable doubt that Lugela was the killer.

"Mr. Lugela was clearly aware of his actions," the judge said. "He had the ability to fire, not one, but two bullets into the body of Mylan Hicks."

Hicks's mother, Renee Hill, who came from Detroit to hear the verdict cried out "Hallelujah!" as Yamauchi gave his decision. "Another killer off the streets," she said.

She cried throughout much of the verdict and at one point the court clerk handed her a box of tissue.

Hill turned to Lugela as court adjourned briefly and asked: "For what Lugela? For what?"

Members of Lugela's family also started crying. He, however, stood looking down with no visible emotion.

A sentencing hearing was set for May 30.

The trial was told that several Stampeders, including Hicks, had been celebrating a victory over Winnipeg in a game hours earlier.

A disagreement over a spilled drink in the bar intensified after closing time in the parking lot.

Witnesses testified that after some pushing and shoving, a person who appeared to be holding a handgun opened fire at Hicks as he was running for cover.

The 23-year-old was hit twice, in the abdomen and chest, and died in hospital.

Court heard the shooter and two other young men jumped into an SUV and sped away. Police said they arrested three people about 45 minutes later when they returned to the scene.

Several witnesses identified Lugela as the man holding the gun. But one, a server at the bar, testified it was another person from the group who pulled the trigger.

The judge pointed out that witness Derek Dennis, who was an offensive lineman with the Stampeders, testified he saw the shooting and spontaneously identified Lugela walking down the street by saying, "That's the shooter."

That "spontaneous utterance" gave Dennis's statement "reliability," Yamauchi said.

During final arguments, Lugela's lawyer, Alain Hepner, told court that the case highlighted the dangers of eyewitness identification and who to believe.

The Crown argued that the forensic evidence, along with eyewitness accounts, proved Lugela's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Hicks, who was on Calgary's practice roster, was from Detroit. He played college football at Michigan State.

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