WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There were bitter moments in a Westchester courtroom Thursday, as four men pleaded not guilty in the killing of a Yonkers man.
The suspects appeared in court to face charges in connection with the murder of a promising baseball player.READ MORE: New York Weather: CBS2's 12/3 Friday Afternoon Forecast
Supporters of the victim and the defendants were there.
One by one Nashaun Hunter, Garth O’Neil Cole, Darren Dawson and Tejmitra Singh walked into the courtroom in White Plains and pleaded not guilty in the shooting death of 23-year-old Michael Nolan.
Hunter, 17, is charged with second degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon while the other three are each charged with criminal possession of a weapon and assault.
There was an audible reaction in court as Hunter’s lawyer entered a plea. The judge issued a stern warning to the packed courtroom.
“Any disruptions and we’ll clear the courtroom in a heartbeat,” he said.
Authorities said Hunter opened fire from a car, hitting Nolan in a Burger King parking lot on Central Avenue in September of last year. The other suspects were allegedly in the car during the shooting.
Nolan was taken to the hospital where he remained in a coma until he died from his injuries on Oct. 9.
Police said the shooting was connected to a fight during a drag race two nights earlier. Nolan became collateral damage in the conflicts that sometimes arise out of illegal street racing.
“We can say that Michael Nolan was present during the dispute that occurred,” said Yonkers Police Commissioner Charles Garner.
Friends of the defendants were in court on Thursday, but wouldn’t give their names.
“The victim’s a good guy, da-da-da; it’s always like that when somebody passes, but obviously if he was such a good guy why was he in that situation to begin with?” a friend of the suspects said.
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, Nolan’s godfather wore a laminated picture of the murdered man on a cord around his neck.READ MORE: Columbia Student Killed, Tourist Wounded In Stabbings Near Morningside Park; Suspect In Custody
Other friends wore t-shirts bearing his likeness, imagining him in heaven. His heartbroken father carried the young baseball player’s Oakland A’s jersey, a symbol of the promise that was stolen.
Nolan’s parents said their son was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“He had nothing to do with any of this. I’m not denying he was there, but he had nothing to do with the fight, with the race, he had nothing to do with any of that,” said Donna Nolan, the victim’s mother. “He was not involved in any race and he was not the intended target.”
Two detectives built the case on scant physical evidence with a score of uncooperative witnesses.
“It was a little tough in the beginning, but once people started to cooperate, the best way to describe it, it all started to fall. It became a little easier,” said Det. Dale Hughes of the Yonkers Police Department.
Police made heavy use of social media postings in tracking the suspects, CBS2’s Young reported. Authorities also said .25 caliber shell casings were found at the scene and a .25 caliber bullet was recovered from Nolan’s body.
Meanwhile, Nolan’s parents said seeing the suspects for the first time has been very upsetting.
“It’ll never be the same. Michael was the laugh. Michael was the heart,” his father, Jim Nolan said.
“This is about Michael; I don’t care about the people who were arrested, I don’t care about their families, I care about my son and keeping his legacy alive,” Nolan’s mother said.
Nolan had been drafted by the Oakland Athletics out of Oklahoma City University, but had never pitched in an official Minor League game.
At the time of the shooting, Athletics general manager David Forst said “Michael will always be a member of the A’s family.”
The defendants are due back in court in June.MORE NEWS: Suffolk County Police Officer Timothy Thrane Set To Be Released From Hospital
If convicted, the alleged shooter faces 25 years to life while the others could get as much as 25 years behind bars.