Two Hickory men connected with the shooting deaths of three people in the parking lot of McCroskey’s Irish Pub and Grill in Hickory each could spend up to 82 years in prison after pleading guilty during Catawba County Superior Court on Thursday, August 12, 2021.
Greydon Keith Hansen and Dontray Tyrell Cumberlander, both 28 years old, were given prison terms of 64 to 82 years for their roles in the April 2017 deaths of Quajuae Alexus Kennedy, Justin Michael Aiken and Cody Manood Bouphavong. All three victims were 21 years old.
A fourth victim, 20-year-old Cole Brady Ervin, also was shot and injured during the deadly attack.
Hansen and Cumberlander both pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder, one count of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and one count of discharging a weapon into an occupied vehicle during two emotional hearings in front of a packed courtroom.
“No one believes that the result of this plea, or any plea or any trial will be equal to the losses that have been suffered here,” District Attorney Scott Reilly said. “I do believe that this plea will result in these two defendants spending the rest of their lives in prison. My hope is that this plea will give closure to the victims’ families so that they might be able to move forward in their healing process.”
The Honorable William T. Pomeroy, Superior Court Judge from Lincoln County, imposed the prison term for the defendants, who will serve their period of incarceration in the custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections.
“I’m immensely shocked by the senselessness and lack of decency,” Pomeroy said of violent acts he sees in his role as a judge. “There is nothing I can say to satisfy anybody, nothing I can do to bring back a child. I do want each of the families to know that your statements will make me remember Justin, Cody and Quajuae.”
In his sentencing argument, Assistant District Attorney Lance Sigmon acknowledged that nothing would change the outcome of that tragic night.
“No matter how you examine this incident, there will never be a plausible explanation for these senseless killings,” he said. “There is nothing that anyone can do to return these young people back to life. There is no one that can remove the sorrow and sadness of their families caused by these deaths. No type of punishment will bring them back to life or heal the pain the families continue to endure. But this term of years will guarantee that neither man will be released until they are in their late 80s – which should protect our community from further violent acts.”
The fatal shootings occurred April 7, 2017. Early that morning, officers from Hickory Police Department responded to McCroskey’s for a reported shooting and found Bouphavong lying in the parking lot suffering from a gunshot wound. Witnesses at the scene told officers that the victims were shot while they were inside a Honda Accord, and the two men responsible left in a Ford Fusion.
Pablo Castillo-Hernandez, driver of the Accord, told officers that he and his friends were in the car when the Fusion circled the parking lot with a white male hanging out the passenger’s window holding an assault rifle. A black male then approached the Accord from behind, stuck a gun in the back window and started firing inside the vehicle.
Witness accounts and a cell phone video of the shooting corroborate those events, showing Cumberlander shooting into the car as Hansen raised the assault rifle and also began firing at the vehicle.
Castillo-Hernandez sped away from the scene to seek treatment for his friends at a nearby hospital.
A little while later, officers with Long View Police Department stopped a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed matching the description of the one that left McCroskey’s. Hansen and Cumberlander were the occupants. They told officers they had weapons in the vehicle and had been at McCroskey’s. A witness identified the vehicle and the men as the same ones involved in the shooting.
During interviews with investigators, both men admitted to driving around the parking lot of the pub and firing their weapons at and inside the Accord with the victims in it. A search of the vehicle they were in turned up a Taurus 9-millimeter handgun and an M&P .22-caliber assault rifle. Investigators recovered twelve 9-millimeter shell casings and nine .22-caliber shell casings at the scene of the shootings.
Aiken was pronounced dead at Frye Regional Medical Center on April 7, and Bouphavong was transported to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte where he also was pronounced dead. Kennedy was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center where she died from her wounds on April 8.
A number of family members and friends spoke about the victims, offering powerful statements in remembrance of the people they were and the lives they lived.
“I thought one day I’d be giving a speech at my son’s wedding, not giving a victim impact statement in a courtroom,” said Craig Aiken, Justin’s father. “Justin was loved by everyone. This act of evil has not impacted just me but a lot of other people … We came together to raise a great person who didn’t deserve to die this way. He lost his life because of cowards who thought they were tough because they had guns and decided to shoot up a car with innocent people. I’ll never get to see how (Justin’s) life turns out because of the senseless act of two monsters.”
Hope Kennedy, Quajuae’s mother, also spoke of the senseless loss of life.
“So many people loved her,” she said of her daughter. “That night, Mr. Hansen and Mr. Cumberlander made a life-altering decision, a decision that can’t ever be taken back and has changed our lives forever. The pain you both brought to our family is indescribable. No parent should ever have to see their child leave this earth before them.”
Speaking on behalf of her family, Souphone Thavichith, Cody’s aunt, said, “Our lives haven’t been the same without Cody. In his short years, he touched all our lives tremendously. They say time will heal, but it truly hurts just as much now as on April 7, 2017. He was taken over something so senseless. You destroyed so many people’s lives. Why couldn’t you just walk away?”
Hansen declined to speak when given the chance to do so, opting instead to have his attorney, Lisa Dubs, express his sorrow to the victims’ families and his loved ones for his actions.
Cumberlander also did not say anything in court. Defense Attorney Scott Gsell said the defendant indicated he hoped through time and faith, the families of all the victims would forgive his actions.
Kim Craig led the investigation for Hickory Police Department. Assistant District Attorneys Lance Sigmon and Nancy Lee prosecuted the matter for the State.
CONTACT: Nathan Key