This week, three Mecklenburg families shared the same courtroom, and all shed tears.
A year ago, a botched drug deal near Harrisburg Road and I-485 led to the shooting death of bystander Tony Van Tran.
On Thursday, in an emotional scene that opened in the courtroom and spilled out into the lobby, the families of the victim and the accused grieved the loss of one life and the rupture of two others.
On Feb. 26, 2014, Van Tran, 26, was sitting in a car when a supposed drug buy between two groups erupted in gunfire. The bullet came through the rear window. Van Tran died at CMC-University.
Three men – Van Tran knew all of them, police say – were arrested and charged with his death. Thursday, all were in court.
Lindy Hoeun, 24, faces murder, robbery, conspiracy and felony cocaine charges in connection with the events that led to Van Tran’s death. He asked for a new attorney, shook his old attorney’s hand and left the courtroom under armed guard.
A short time later, both Jose Sosa, 21, and Edwin Medel, 22, stood before Superior Court Judge Bob Bell. Both had agreed to a plea deal from Assistant District Attorney David Kelly that would drop the murder charge but send the pair to prison for at least nine years for robbery and voluntary manslaughter charges.
The families and friends of the two sat in stone-faced clumps behind them. So did more than a dozen members of Van Tran’s family. They filled an entire row on the right side of the courtroom, and several had been clutching tissues since they walked into court.
Before Bell signed off on the plea agreements, the judge gave Van Tran’s sister Linda the chance to speak. Sobbing at the front of the courtroom, she said her brother was a good man, who would have made something good out of his life had he been given the chance.
She looked over at Sosa and Medel. In time, their families would be reunited with them. Her family would never see Van Tran again, she said.
And then Bell delivered the sentences, and both men were led away. This time, in the lobby, the Sosa and Medel family members began to cry, alone or in groups.
The Van Tran family slid into a side room with Kelly and closed the door.