Calgary

Siksika hockey star killed over $20 pack of cigarettes, judge hears

A Siksika hockey star was chased and fatally shot over a $20 package of cigarettes, a judge heard Thursday as one of the two brothers charged in Kristian Ayoungman's death pleaded guilty.

Kody Giffen pleads guilty to manslaughter, brother Brandon goes on trial next year

Kristian Ayoungman was a hockey star in the town of Strathmore, Alta., and he'd been in town for a game on the night he was shot and killed. One of two brothers charged pleaded guilty to manslaughter Thursday. (Ayoungman Family)

A Siksika hockey star was chased down and fatally shot over a $20 package of cigarettes, a judge heard Thursday as one of the two brothers charged in Kristian Ayoungman's death pleaded guilty.

Kody Giffen, 23, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of Ayoungman, who was killed in March 2019. Kody's older brother Brandon Giffen will go on trial next summer.

The killing was detailed in an agreed statement of facts read aloud by prosecutor Lynda Levesque before Justice Suzanne Bensler accepted the plea.

The admissions made by Kody are not considered evidence against Brandon. None of the allegations in the agreed statement of facts are proven against the elder Giffen.

Previous stories have described the killing as an act of racism against the victim. However, the Giffen brothers are Indigenous themselves. Before Kody Giffen will be sentenced, a Gladue report — which examines an Indigenous offender's background — has been ordered.

The brief hearing Thursday took place over video conference with Kody — who is out on bail — sitting with his lawyer, Shelley Moore, in her office. 

The chain of events began on the night of March 16, 2019, when both the victim and the killer — who had never met — were with friends at the King Eddy Pub in Strathmore.

Ayoungman sold a package of cigarettes to Kody but there were a couple missing. 

Kody became enraged.

The two groups of friends fought, verbally at first but then it turned physical.

Kody felt outmatched, Levesque said, so he told the two groups he was leaving to go get his older brother. 

Brandon Giffen was sleeping in his apartment building 350 metres away from the pub.

Ayoungman eventually left the parking lot with friends, one of whom, they agreed to drive home.

Coincidentally, the friend's home was in the same apartment building where Kody had gone to fetch Brandon.

Kristian Ayoungman was killed when a single shot from a hunting rifle tore through a truck and hit him in the back seat. (Ayoungman Family)

In the parking lot, the two groups, once again, got into a fight. According to the agreed statement of facts, Brandon went back inside and returned with a hunting rifle. 

He confronted Ayoungman, who then fled with his friends in a Dodge truck, "fearing for their lives."

Brandon told Kody to follow. Kody was driving, Brandon was in the passenger seat and their friends were in the back.

The victim's friend Breanna Crawler was driving the Dodge with Ayoungman in the back seat. 

Crawler couldn't lose the Giffens on the streets of Strathmore so she headed home to Siksika Nation. 

She headed south on Highway 817 but the Giffens followed. 

A single shot

Passengers in the brothers' car told police they saw Brandon hold up a bullet and ask, "where should I shoot it," but Kody denies seeing or hearing anything of the sort.

Brandon then told Kody to pull over. Kody says he believed that meant Brandon wanted to abandon the chase. 

But once the brothers pulled to the side of the highway, Brandon got out, according to the agreed statement of facts, raised his rifle and fired a single shot.

The bullet hit the Dodge, tearing through the tailgate, a canvas hockey bag in the truck bed, the cabin, the seat occupied by Ayoungman and through his chest.

The bullet landed at the victim's feet.

Sentencing to take place in 2021

Ayoungman had been fatally wounded and died at the scene.

After shooting Ayoungman, Kody dropped his friends and brother off and began driving home to Calgary with his girlfriend.

RCMP stopped him en route and he immediately admitted his involvement.

Brandon turned himself in days later and will go on trial next year.

The case will be back before Bensler in December after the reports are completed. A sentencing date will be set at that time. 

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.

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