SALT LAKE CITY — Esteban Saidi was not a gang member. He was just a 16-year-old kid who had gathered with several of his Kearns High School classmates to watch a fight.
Neither he nor anyone else had any way of knowing that he would die doing so.
"My brother was my hero," Erick Saidi said Tuesday. "I looked up to him. ... I thought nothing would be able to harm him. You could say he was Superman to me."
Ricky Angilau, 19, was also just a 16-year-old kid when he fired the gun that killed Saidi.
"Youth today seem to do a lot of things out of the spur of the moment — anger, that type of stuff," said Saidi's mother, Patricia Salceda-Garcia. "It's not that easy to just take a weapon and do whatever you want in the spur of the moment, because not only do you destroy one life, you destroy the lives of all the people around you."
But the mother later asked to speak a second time and offered to forgive the boy who shot her son.
The courtroom was awash in tears Tuesday as Angilau was ordered to serve up to five years in prison for manslaughter, a third-degree felony. Though he was originally charged with murder, a first-degree felony, the charge was reduced as part of a plea agreement.
Angilau took some time to compose himself before addressing the court and Saidi's family. Over and over again, he apologized for what he had done.
"I'm ready to face whatever consequences I've got to face," he said. "I'm sorry. I wish I could take it all back. ... This has been stressful on me. I deserve it. I know I can't fix anything with my words. I can stand here and say sorry as much as I want to and it won't fix anything. I just want to let the Saidi family know I mean to make amends."
The shooting occurred following a fistfight between Angilau and another Kearns High student on Jan. 21, 2009. Angilau, who had taken a gun to school, fired it into the air after the fight, causing a crowd that had gathered to flee. He then fired two additional shots in the direction of the crowd, but witnesses said the shots were aimed more up in the air than at any specific person.
Still, Saidi was hit and killed.
"It's very clear he did not intend to shoot or kill or injure the victim in this case," defense attorney Ron Yengich said. "(But) there was a death and that death needs and requires a punishment."
Despite initial reports that the shooting may have been gang-related, prosecutor Patricia Cassell clarified that Saidi was not a member of any gang.
"That was really unfair to him and unfair to his family," Cassell said. "Part of his mother's heartache is because he was labeled as something he wasn't. He was there to watch a fight, as many kids do. ... He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Saidi's mother spoke about her oldest son and what he meant to their family, explaining how he would promise his hard-working single mother that he was going to grow up and work hard enough to be able to buy her a house. She recalled a time when she was sick and he got up, woke up his siblings and made everyone, including her, breakfast.
"He was a good son," Salceda-Garcia said. "The situation I've been living in since he has died has been exceptionally hard, because ... I will never have my son back again."
Erick Saidi said he lies in bed at night and imagines what life would be like if his brother were still alive. He still asks himself and God why this happened.
"Things are so different now," he said. "No matter what I do, there is this void in my heart. ... I miss my brother and all I have left are memories."
"I am responsible," Angilau said. "I want to be held accountable for this. I will do whatever I have to do to make things right — or as right as possible."
After Angilau finished speaking, Saidi's mother asked to speak again. She turned to Angilau, and addressed him through an interpreter. What she said brought the man to tears.
"I forgive you," she told him. "I really have no resentment against you. I know that you were young as well. ... I have nothing against you, I have nothing against your family. ... I want you to go forward."
Third District Judge William Barrett told Angilau that the sentence gave him the opportunity to make something of his life. He said he was impressed by Salceda-Garcia's expression of forgiveness.
"That's a gift," the judge said. "That's a true gift."
The judge took into consideration Angilau's young age at the time of the crime, his attitude and the support he has from family and friends. He said he also kept both families in mind in considering the sentence.
"This hurts my heart, but this young man's got an opportunity and I think he's going to take advantage of this opportunity," Barrett said. "That feels good."
Additional charges of obstruction of justice and carrying a concealed weapon, both second-degree felonies, and possession of a firearm on school premises, a class A misdemeanor, were previously dismissed in exchange for Angilau's plea. Barrett also dismissed a second case involving a single count of damaging a jail, a third-degree felony.
Angilau has already spent 1,299 days in custody. The judge did not give him credit for the time served, but said he will pass the information on to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole for consideration.
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