Decrying 'gangster fantasies,' Crown seeks life with no parole for 22 years for men who 'executed' victim at Edmonton hall party

“The public has grown weary and impatient of grown men who persist in carrying out their gangster fantasies in public places, with no regard for innocent life”

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Two murderers who “executed” a man at a crowded community hall party should serve 22 years of their life sentences before being allowed a chance at parole, prosecutors say.

Christopher Wilson and Abdullahi Yalahow were in Edmonton’s Court of King’s Bench Wednesday for a sentencing hearing on their second-degree murder convictions.

A jury found the two guilty last November of gunning down Hamza Mohamed during a party at Duggan community hall on Aug. 29, 2021.

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Prosecutor Thomas O’Leary described the killers’ actions as “audacious acts of brutality” committed by two men “hell-bent on executing Hamza Mohamed.”

He said Justice Paul Belzil’s sentence must send a message to the community and others who would engage in gun violence.

“These two men — mature men with serious criminal records, both under lifetime bans from ever again touching a gun — worked in tandem to carry out a summary execution of an unarmed man, lying defenceless and injured on the ground,” O’Leary said.

“The public has grown weary and impatient (with) grown men who persist in carrying out their gangster fantasies in public places, with no regard for innocent life.”

While not binding on the court, jurors were “nearly unanimous” in recommending Wilson and Yalahow serve the maximum 25 years before being allowed to apply for parole, O’Leary added. The minimum parole ineligibility period for second-degree murder — which carries an automatic life sentence — is 10 years.

glock photo
A Glock pistol recovered from the bushes of St. Augustine Catholic Elementary School after a shooting on Aug. 29, 2021 at the nearby Duggan community hall. The weapon tested positive for the blood of the victim, Hamza Mohamed. Photo by Supplied Photo /ASIRT

The night of the shooting

Jurors heard multiple weeks of testimony from people who witnessed the shooting, much of which was captured on the hall’s security cameras.

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The shooting began when a third man fired a handgun at Mohamed, who was attending a “90s badness” party at the hall along with hundreds of other partygoers. The shots hit Mohamed in the spine and set off a stampede as frightened attendees made for the doors.

After the initial shots were fired, Yalahow left through a side door and returned to the hall through the main entrance. He fired at Mohamed — who lay on the floor of the hall’s gym — from the entryway. He tried to fire a second time but lost his gun when a security guard intervened. Mohamed then pulled out his own handgun and shot Yalahow, who tumbled back into the hallway. As the two injured men fired at one another, Wilson circled behind Mohamed, hit him in the head and disarmed him.

When Wilson called out to Yalahow, Yalahow replied “yo, hit him, grease him.” Wilson fired three rounds into Mohamed’s head.

After Mohamed was dead, Wilson repeatedly pistol whipped the body. As onlookers screamed for him to stop, Wilson shouted “Yo who wants to f–-k around?”

Wilson then hid the gun in some bushes and tried to mislead first responders by telling a 911 operator some “Jamaican guys” had done the shooting.

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At trial, Wilson claimed he was too drunk to remember any of his actions that evening. He argued he should be convicted of manslaughter, which has no minimum sentence and does not require the Crown to prove he intended to kill Mohamed.

Yalahow did not call evidence at trial. The jury found both men guilty as charged. Yalahow was convicted as an abettor.

School CCTV
A still from a CCTV camera at St. Augustine Catholic Elementary School, across the street from Duggan community hall, where Hamza Mohamed was gunned down on Aug. 29, 2021. Crown prosecutors say the person in the image is Christopher Wilson, who along with Abdullahi Yalahow is charged with second-degree murder in Mohamed’s death. Photo by Supplied Photo /ASIRT

The defence

Defence lawyers  Zachary Al-Khatib and Matthew Ackerman argued for parole ineligibility periods of 14 and 15 years, respectively.

Al-Khatib, Yalahow’s lawyer, said the Crown is acting as though both men were convicted of first-degree murder, which would have required prosecutors to prove Wilson and Yalahow’s actions were planned and deliberate.

Al-Khatib disagreed with the Crown’s claim that bringing guns to a crowded party meant Wilson and Yalahow planned to kill Mohamed. According to Al-Khatib, the summer of 2021 was a time of heightened gun violence, and people in Yalahow and Wilson’s circles were “arming themselves for protection.” Yalahow had himself been previously shot.

“People are armed for all sorts of reasons,” Al-Khatib said, adding, “none of that makes it legally justifiable.”

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Ackerman characterized his client’s actions as “impulsive” and not part of a plot to kill Mohamed. He noted Mohamed fired multiple rounds at Yalahow before Wilson killed him, some of which hit bystanders.

Wilson gave a lengthy prepared statement, insisting he had been honest about being too drunk to remember killing Mohamed. He apologized to Mohamed’s family, but suggested he acted only to “save my friend’s life” and that the “tables very easily could have been turned.”

Being allowed to apply for parole is no guarantee it will be granted, and both men will be under some form of supervision for the rest of their lives.

hall shooting
Police work the scene of a multiple shooting at the Duggan community hall, 3728 106 St., in Edmonton on Aug. 30, 2021. One person was killed and six injured following an early morning shooting at the hall. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia, file

‘Hope, joy and innocence’

Five of Mohamed’s loved ones submitted victim impact statements, painting a picture of a young man with big dreams who made a positive impact on friends and co-workers.

Hamdi Greening, his sister, said Mohamed was the youngest of 10 siblings and “the very embodiment of hope, joy and innocence.” He worked in oilfield safety and was “a beacon of responsibility and compassion in a world that often feels cold and indifferent.”

“He had no inkling a simple night out would descend into such a nightmare, orchestrated by two complete strangers who were unknown to him,” she said.

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Ahmed Arif, a friend who met Mohamed at Friday prayers at the mosque in Fort McMurray, said he was “the kind of person who really turned your day around as soon as you heard his voice.” Arif said Mohamed regularly sent money he earned in the oilsands back to family in Africa.

“He was the last person you would think something like this could happen to.”

Belzil will give his decision on sentence Friday.

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