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A Kearns man who was 16 when he fired into a crowd during a fight, killing an onlooker, has been sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Ricky Angilau, now 19, stood before a judge Tuesday afternoon his case having spent nearly three years bouncing between juvenile and adult courts looking much more a man than on the January afternoon when he shot into a crowd of people watching him fight a classmate.
The bullet that killed 16-year-old Esteban Saidi was fired in a moment of anger, his mother said in court Tuesday, but it changed his family forever.
"Not only do you destroy the life of one person," Patricia Salceda-Garcia said, "you destroy the lives of all the people around him."
On Jan. 21, 2009, Ricky Angilau and Erik Flores, two students at Kearns High School, agreed to meet off campus around noon to fight. The two had feuded since middle school, and were heard cursing at each other in school that day.
Two carloads of people pulled up to watch, according to testimony. Among them was 16-year-old Esteban Saidi.
Flores walked away from the five-minute brawl a winner, prompting Angilau's friend, Lolo Mataele, to fight Flores himself. When the crowd of gang members stepped forward, Angilau pulled out the gun he'd brought to school that morning.
Mataele testified at a preliminary hearing last year that he and Angilau were afraid of the gang members.
"Ricky pulled out the gun and aimed it at Erik," Mataele testified. "Erik was like, 'Go ahead and shoot, I'll get you back.'"
Angilau fired a shot in the air.
The onlookers, some of them said to be Sureño gang members, took cover, until Angilau yelled, "I'm kidding, I'm kidding, come back," according to Mataele.
When the gang members began walking back, Angilau fired two or three shots to the side of the crowd to scare them away, according to Mataele's testimony. Angilau then fired another shot up and away from Flores, and Saidi was hit.
"It's very clear that he did not intend to shoot or kill or injure the victim in this case," said defense attorney Ron Yengich.
Erick Saidi, the victim's younger brother, cried as spoke of a "void in my heart" caused by the death.
"My brother was my hero," he said. "I looked up to him and I followed every step that he took. I thought nothing could ever harm him. You could say he was Superman to me."
His mother and stepfather divorced after Esteban's death, leaving him to help care for his family. "Who do I turn to?" he said.
At night, his thoughts turn to what could have been.
"The house wouldn't feel lonely and quiet," he said. "We would be a happy family like we were before. ... Most of all, I would have my hero back."
Prosecutor Patricia Cassell apologized on Tuesday for mislabeling Saidi as a gang member early in the case. Officials said he as merely there to watch the fight.
Saidi's mother recalled a boy who would make breakfast for his siblings and get them ready for school when she was sick; a child who promised he would one day buy her a house.
"He was a good son," she said. "After he died, I will never have my son back again."
Prosecutors originally charged Angilau with first-degree felony murder, but the charge was reduced to third-degree felony manslaughter as part of a plea deal.
His family and friends filled the courtroom Tuesday afternoon, a show of support his attorney said he could expect when he is paroled.
Judge William Barrett said he believed Angilau who won't receive credit for the 3 1/2 years he's spent behind bars would "take advantage of that opportunity" afforded by the plea deal to be paroled in the next five years.
"I'm just ready to face whatever consequence I have to face," Angilua said, during an apology punctuated by long pauses filled with tears and labored breathing. "I'm sorry. I wish I could take it all back. I know I'm responsible. I want to be held accountable for this. I'll do whatever I have to do to make things right, or as right as possible. I just want to say I'm sorry. I really am sorry."
Through tears and a Spanish interpreter, Saidi's mother offered forgiveness.
"I know that you are young as well," the mother said. "I would say take advantage of this opportunity going forward. You are young."