Gunman pleads guilty to murdering University of Utah football player Aaron Lowe

Mar 11, 2024, 10:00 AM | Updated: Mar 12, 2024, 11:42 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Buk Mowat Buk has pleaded guilty to shooting and killing University of Utah football player Aaron Lowe after a 2021 house party in Sugar House.

Buk pleaded guilty to one count of murder and one count of attempted murder, both first-degree felonies. Additional charges of obstruction of justice and possession of a weapon by a restricted person — both second-degree felonies — were dismissed while the murder and attempted murder charges were reduced from aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder as part of a plea deal.

“This act of violence shook the Salt Lake County community when it happened. Mr. Lowe was not only a well-known star athlete at the University of Utah, but he was a beloved friend, son, and brother. Though perfect justice would mean that Mr. Lowe was alive, and the other victim did not have to live with injuries that will last a lifetime, we hope this conviction helps the loved ones of Mr. Lowe and the second victim feel they have received some measure of justice,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. “We thank our prosecutors that worked for more than two years to secure this conviction. We appreciate the diligent work of the Salt Lake City Police Department in conducting a thorough investigation.”

Lowe was shot and killed on Sept. 26, 2021, at a house party in Sugar House, hours after Utah defeated Washington State at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Police said a fight began when multiple people who were not invited arrived and were asked to leave the party, which was for players only.

“During that confrontation, the defendant walked over and shot Aaron Lowe and another individual,” Gill’s office said. “As both victims were lying injured on the ground, the defendant continued to shoot them.”

Family members told KSL TV the second victim was Lowe’s girlfriend, Fuamoli Pomale. She told detectives Buk came to “finish them off” after she and Lowe fell to the ground. Pomale, who survived the shooting, was shot in the neck and chest and four bullets were recovered from Lowe’s body during an autopsy.

Lowe had dedicated the 2021 football season to a teammate from Texas, Ty Jordan, who died almost a year previously after an accidental self-inflicted shooting. Lowe changed his jersey number to No. 22 in Jordan’s memory.

The entire Utah football team attended Lowe’s funeral in Texas and the program retired the No. 22 later that season. In 2023, the program renamed its annual spring game to the “22 Forever Game,” in honor of Lowe and Jordan.

Ute fans also take part in a “moment of loudness” each game, where they stand up, hold their cell phones with the lights on and get as loud as possible to pay tribute to Jordan, Lowe and other Ute fans who have died.

Buk’s court appearance on Monday was scheduled as a status hearing. He was scheduled to go to trial in May until Monday’s plea deal was announced.

Sentencing is scheduled for April 29. He faces a minimum-mandatory sentence of 15 years to life in the Utah State Prison for his murder conviction.

Buk was arrested on Oct. 4, 2021. In the affidavit, police noted that Buk has an “extensive violent criminal history.” Before Lowe’s murder, Buk had cycled in and out of jail for a string of violent crimes in recent years, including two that involved guns.

Officers found Buk running from a stolen car with ammunition in his pocket that matched the caliber of a stolen handgun recovered from the car’s floorboard, court records say. His arrest on Nov. 1, 2020, followed two robbery convictions in Salt Lake County from 2019.

In the days after Buk’s arrest in 2021, the KSL investigative team began digging into Buk’s criminal history.

While there’s no question Buk has a troubling record of violence, there are questions about his true age and how uncertainty surrounding his date of birth might have impacted the outcomes of previous cases against him.

Adding to the confusion – Buk has misidentified himself to authorities multiple times.

According to a motion filed by defense attorney Lance Talakai in 2019, Buk was born in Sudan and fled to Kenya to live with his stepmother after his mother died. When they came to the U.S. as refugees in 2011, Buk, like many refugees, was assigned a birthdate, according to the motion.

Family speaks out

On Monday, the family of Lowe spoke to KSL TV about Monday’s turn of events.

“We felt we had to take what was given because we understand with a jury, it could have gone any kind of way,” said Christopher Jackson, Lowe’s brother. “And so the most important thing was that there was some type of responsibility taken and some measure of justice being served.”

Jackson wants to see if Buk has any remorse.

“I think that it’s important that we hear from him. ‘Is he sorry? Does he have some apology to give to our family?’’ he said. “Because I think we are deserving to know that. … So us being a part of the sentencing process is really important because this is just one step of closure. We think the other steps might be achieved by hearing from him how sorry he is.”

Lowe’s family was opposed to prosecutors seeking the death penalty against Buk. However, they are hopeful he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

“Because for us being believers forgiveness was given soon,” Jackson said. “If we truly forgive him, then who are we to take a life?”

Jackson doesn’t want to see Buk get another opportunity to inflict harm on others.

“I don’t think that he needs to be out (of prison) to perpetrate his violence on anyone else,” Jackson said. “For us, it’s most important that he lives with his decision every day. I want him to realize the awesome person that he took from this world.”

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Gunman pleads guilty to murdering University of Utah football player Aaron Lowe