MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — Court officers heightened security as two men charged with gunning down Harlem basketball star Tayshana "Chicken" Murphy pleaded not guilty to her murder on Tuesday.
About a dozen extra court officers lined the back and front of the room as Tyshawn Brockington, 21, and Robert Cartagena, 20, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in Manhattan Supreme Court while distraught family members and friends of Murphy looked on.
"My emotions are all over the place, like I said it's a tragedy all across the board," said father Taylonn Murphy, who saw his daughter's alleged killers in court for the first time on Tuesday.
Murphy's father said he hoped her death would inspire young people to think before acting violently or seeking retaliation over petty arguments. He said he also sympathizes with the families of alleged shooters Brockington, Cartagena as well as Terique Collins, who's accused of providing the gun used in the murder. Collins did not have to appear at Tuesday's hearing.
"We're talking about a young lady with a promising future and you're talking about three young men who just gave their lives away for something so silly, so senseless," Murphy said.
"We're holding it together to let the kids know you've got to stop reacting," said Tayshana Murphy's former coach, Chez Williams. Williams said he hopes her death will at least inspire an end to "some of the nonsense that goes on."
But the war of words continued at Tuesday's hearing, as those present in support of Murphy and her family exchanged hostilities across the asle in Manhattan Supreme Court.
The tension grew so thick at one point that Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Thomas Farber had to warn those in the audience to keep silent.
"Folks in the audience, a case of this nature involves high levels of emotions. It is important to me for both sides of this fence so to speak to remain quiet and maintain the dignity of the court," Farber warned.
Authorities believe Brockington and Cartagena were seeking revenge as part of an ongoing battle between young people in the Manhattanville and Grant Houses, two Harlem public housing complexes within a few blocks of each other. The pair allegedly fired three rounds at Murphy as she pleaded for her life.
Brockington and Cartagena denied involvement in the murder in statements made to police following their arrest in South Carolina, according to court papers unsealed Tuesday.
They fled the city and were apprehended in Columbia, S.C., weeks later. They were hauled into Manhattan Criminal Court on Oct. 6, where they were ordered held without bail.
Their alleged gun runner, Collins, 24, was also indicted and is being held on $100,000 bail on weapons possession and other charges.
Brockington and Cartagena are due back in court on Dec. 20.