Shopkeeper killers' celebrations interrupted by news report on death, court hears in manslaughter plea

Originally charged with second-degree murder, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Glen Poelman accepted Jean Havyarimana's plea to manslaughter on Tuesday in the death of Calgary shopkeeper Maqsood Ahmed.

Jean Havyarimana pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Tuesday, another man will be tried in the death next year

Jean Havyarimana, right, was sentenced to nine years in jail for his role in the death of Maqsood Ahmed. (Facebook/Calgary Police Service)

In the middle of celebrating the bundles of cash stolen from a local business owner, Jean Havyarimana and his accomplices were interrupted by a television news report informing them they'd killed shopkeeper Maqsood Ahmed.

The details of the crime come from an agreed statement of facts read aloud by prosecutor Marta Juzwiak in a Calgary courthouse on Tuesday as Court of Queen's Bench Justice Glen Poelman accepted Havyarimana's plea to manslaughter.

He was originally charged with second-degree murder.

The confrontation

Havyarimana and his two accomplices planned to rob Ahmed, who was 55, after he left his produce store on the night of Oct. 8, 2014 in the city's northeast.

When they arrived, Ahmed was in the process of cashing out his business. As he left, the young men sprayed Ahmed in the face with bear spray, grabbed his money bag containing between $50,000 and $75,000 and began to run away.

Ahmed chased after them.

One of the accomplices stabbed Ahmed while Havyarimana fetched the getaway car.

When Havyarimana returned to the scene of the stabbing, he got out of the car and stomped on Ahmed's head before fleeing in the vehicle. 

Maqsood Ahmed, who owned the Calgary Produce Market in northeast Calgary, was stabbed to death in 2014 in a robbery gone wrong. (Facebook)

Ahmed walked a few feet before collapsing. He was pronounced dead when emergency responders arrived.

The three men fled and gathered shortly after at a home where they split up the money. Havyarimana's portion was about $20,000.

The celebration of their newfound wealth continued all night and into the morning. 

Killer celebrates

"Celebrations were interrupted by a morning television news story about the deceased's killing, which all witnessed and watched," reads the agreed statement of facts.

The trio drove to Edmonton the next day to put distance between themselves, the city where their crime took place and the ensuing media attention.

They also continued their celebrations in the capital by going on a shopping spree at West Edmonton Mall. 

Juzwiak and defence lawyer Cory Wilson proposed a nine-year prison sentence which Poelman accepted. Havyarimana has already served more than two years of that sentence.

Havyarimana fled Burundi as refugee

Havyarimana, 21, fled his home country Burundi as a refugee in the middle of a genocidal civil war during which he witnessed "unspeakable acts" and lost two brothers, according to Wilson.

Wilson said his client is "incredibly remorseful" and never intended for Ahmed to be killed.

"This was a money bag grab and run that went horribly, horribly wrong," he said.

In accepting the guilty plea and handing down sentence, Poelman called Havyarimana's killing of Ahmed a "horrendous crime motivated by...pure greed."

"It has taught you to treat life cheaply," said Poelman of Havyarimana's childhood in a war torn country.

One of Havyarimana's accomplices pleaded guilty in 2016 to robbery and being an accessory after the fact to murder for his role in Ahmed's death.

A trial for another suspect in the case, LK, who can't be identified due to a publication ban, begins next March.