Four years after Calgary Stampeder Mylan Hicks was shot while running away from violence, his killer's conviction has been upheld by Alberta's top court.
On Wednesday, the Alberta Court of Appeal rejected Nelson Lugela's bid to have his conviction overturned.
In 2019, following a trial, Lugela, 23, was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 18 years.
In his appeal, one of the key arguments was that the judge should not have allowed social media posts showing Lugela with a gun to be considered as evidence.
But in its unanimous decision, the panel of judges found the photos were properly admitted and were "logically relevant to the issue of identity."
"These were not photos showing Mr. Lugela with random weapons, they were a series of photos suggesting he possessed the exact type of handgun used in the shooting."
The judges found there was "no basis to interfere with the trial judge's decision."
"Considered in totality, the evidence supports the judge's verdict."
Hicks was a Detroit native who came to Canada to play football in hopes it would be a step toward his dream of playing in the NFL.
When he was killed, Hicks was on the practice roster of the Stampeders.
His mother, Renee Hill, who attended the trial in Calgary, said her son "survived the fire of Detroit" only to be killed in Canada.
Hicks died in the arms of a teammate
The team had been at the Marquee nightclub the night of Sept. 24, 2016, to celebrate a win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
During the trial, witnesses testified Lugela aggressively approached the players at least twice.
An argument began inside between some of the players and Lugela and his friends, but Hicks was nowhere near the fight.
Once the club closed and patrons streamed outside, Lugela reignited the dispute and opened fire.
All of the witnesses testified Hicks was never involved in any altercation.
Hicks began running when he heard a gunshot and was hit twice as he tried to flee. He died in the arms of one of his teammates.
Lugela and two friends fled the scene but were arrested shortly after.
A report prepared ahead of sentencing found Lugela to be a high risk to violently reoffend.