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Killer gets 11 years for fatal shooting of SAIT basketball player

The Calgary man who fatally shot a SAIT basketball star was handed an 11-year sentence Friday after pleading guilty to manslaughter earlier this year. 

John Mitchell Smith Jr., 31, died defending his girlfriend and her friend from the unwanted advances and physical contact by Michael Martinez, 37.

“There is no excuse for bringing a firearm to public places,” said Justice Willie deWit in handing down the sentence.

“If you are that afraid, stay home. This can only lead to tragedy, as it did in this case.”

Prosecutor Margot Engley asked the judge to impose a 14- to 16-year sentence, while the defence lawyer argued an eight- to 12-year prison term would be appropriate.

Martinez grabbed Smith’s girlfriend

On Oct. 10, 2021, Smith left a nightclub in downtown Calgary around 2:30 a.m. with his girlfriend, Michaela Allen-Gullion, and her friend.

Nearby, Martinez was with friends, “looking to pick up women as they left the bar,” according to an agreed statement of facts (ASF) presented as part of the killer’s plea in April. 

Two photos of a man under arrest appear side-by-side.
Jesse Michael Martinez, 37, pleaded guilty to manslaughter earlier this year and was handed an 11-year sentence on Friday. (Calgary Police Service)

Martinez approached Allen-Gullion, put his arm around her, and when she rejected his advances, he grabbed her arm, according to the ASF.

That action caused Smith to punch Martinez in the face.

‘I will never be the same’

Martinez then pulled out a gun and shot Smith twice. 

Growing up, Smith’s home included two sisters and his mother. 

Cylon Bates says she taught her son to stand up for and protect women. 

Five women stand together with their arms around each other in the lobby of the Calgary Courts Centre.
Pictured from left to right: Eileen Gullion and her daughter Michaela Allen-Gullion, who was John Mitchell Smith Jr.’s girlfriend; Smith’s sisters, Krystal Smith and Sade Smith, and their mother, Cylon Bates. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

In a victim impact statement read aloud in court on Wednesday, Allen-Gullion wrote that she held Smith in her arms and watched him take his last breath. 

“I will never be the same without John, the man I thought was going to be the father of my children,” said Allen-Gullion.

‘Fell in love over basketball’

At the time of his death, Smith played basketball for the SAIT Trojans. He had been the school’s president of the Black and Indigenous Student Union, a volunteer coach with kids and was pursuing a business administration diploma. 

Smith was also helping Allen-Gullion work toward an opportunity to play professionally in Australia.

“John and I fell in love over basketball,” she wrote.

“I had been training with John working toward that goal before another man killed John in front of me.”

Last love letter

Smith wrote a love letter to Allen-Gullion a few months before he was killed.

It was presented as part of her victim impact statement to the court. 

“You are my heart and home wrapped into one,” he wrote to her. 

“Once you find the person who makes you feel complete, you go to the ends of the earth to protect that person.… You are the only person I want to spend my good and bad days with. You are the only person I want my babies to look like. I want to marry you.

“I love you Michaela, now until the end of my days.”

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