Nigel Dixon's short life included plenty of despair, including losing his mother to cancer when he was a young boy.
But there was also plenty of hope for the 20-year-old man -- hope that was snuffed out last week by gun-wielding gang members. Dixon was shot dead on Langside Street just after 4 p.m. on April 2 in what police say was a case of mistaken identity. His killers, who have yet to be identified, apparently mistook him for a rival, chased him down the street and executed him.
"I drive by where it happened and just keep thinking 'Oh my God, he must have been running for his life,' " Bev Nielson told the Free Press Wednesday.
She took on the role of surrogate mom after her own son befriended Dixon in elementary school.
Dixon was being raised by a single father in the West End but spent plenty of time at Nielson's downtown residence, where he often talked about the challenges of living in a crime-ridden area.
"Sometimes he'd be scared, he'd come to the house and more than a few times tell me he thought people were following him," said Nielson. "I'd always give him a ride home, watch him go inside to make sure he was safe."
Dixon and several friends recently addressed some of those fears by attending the Future Is Yours life-skills program through the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre. A gang-awareness section is part of the program.
Dixon graduated and found temporary employment while looking forward to a bright future. But nothing could have prepared him for what he'd encounter on the street last week.
Nielson described Dixon as a mild-mannered and shy young man who often walked with his head down, avoiding eye contact, with a hoodie pulled over his head. She believes that sort of appearance may have led his killer to wrongly label him a gang member.
Police were quick to point out earlier this week he was an innocent victim as they appealed to the public for help in solving his slaying.
"A young man has lost his life. It is our goal to figure out exactly what took place and identify the individuals involved and hold them accountable," Const. Jason Michalyshen said.
"When we have incidents like this occur, whether they occur during the day or they occur at night, it is baffling to us that any member of the public, any human being, would react in this fashion.
Dixon's body was returned to Garden Hill and his funeral was held Monday.
Many of his friends have also been participating in sharing circles at Ma Mawi in the wake of his death.
"It's really hit the kids hard," said Nielson. She said it's frightening how many people are carrying guns in Winnipeg, especially those involved in gangs.
"And they just seem to be getting younger and younger. It's so unreal," she said. "It's just so unbelievable this could happen."
Police believe other people saw the shooting and urge these witnesses to call detectives at 204-986-6508 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).