One of Wisezah Buckman’s victims wanted a confrontation. The brother of another offered reconciliation.
Both reactions were on display Thursday when the 27-year-old pleaded guilty to a June 2014 shooting spree that left one of his co-workers dead and another one wounded.
Under the terms of the plea agreement with prosecutors, Buckman will spend at least 26 years in prison for the murder of Thurmont Deant Davis, 36, who worked with Buckman at a Wilkinson Boulevard distribution center. Mario Forte was wounded.
Buckman was originally charged with first-degree murder, which carries a maximum penalty of life without parole. Thursday, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and other charges and will serve a term of 312 to 387 months in prison.
The crime that will put him there began as a workplace disagreement last June in west Charlotte. It quickly escalated into a confrontation at a nearby gas station.
Assistant District Attorney Max Diaz said Forte and Davis expected no more than a fist fight with Buckman. Instead, he said, the defendant drove up in his car and told the two to meet him behind the station. There, he opened fire from his vehicle. Davis was struck in the chest and died at the scene. The wounded Forte scrambled into the station’s convenience store, Diaz said.
Thursday, the barrel-shaped Forte was waiting when Buckman entered the courtroom. He charged up the center aisle before deputies stopped him, then led him out of the courtroom. Even as he withdrew, Forte never turned his back on Buckman. Once outside the courtroom, he stormed off with a deputy scrambling to keep pace.
Buckman did not speak. But his attorney, Michael Kabakoff, offered condolences to Davis’ relatives. He described Buckman as a former dead-end student at Berry Technical School who turned himself into a legislative and governor’s page in Raleigh. “Emotions and carrying guns don’t mix,” he concluded.
Before Superior Court Judge Bob Bell signed off on the plea deal, the dead man’s brother, Demonta Davis, had the chance to speak. Reading from hand-written notes at the front of the courtroom, Davis told Buckman that he had taken away a husband, a father and “a brother like no other.”
Davis, though, said he had make his peace with what had happened. Despite the length of Buckman’s sentence, he still had a chance to make something of his life, Davis told him.
“There are always setbacks. The key is not the setbacks, it’s the comeback,” he said. “There are always winners and losers in life. But the game we’re playing in the street, there is no winner. Who wants to play a game like that? We need a different game. I want you to play that game today.”
Davis had one last request: “My mother is sitting right there,” he said, singling out Patricia Davis among his family members. “All you have to say to her is ‘Why?’”
Buckman did not respond.
Outside the courtroom, Patricia Davis accepted hugs from family members while ruminating on the agony of burying a child.
Nearby, her youngest son leaned quietly against a rail. Demonta Davis said talking to Buckman a few minutes earlier had been “the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”