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Case moves forward in deadly shooting that left father injured, son killed

Da’quintez Gadsden (left) and Aaron White (right) Photos provided/Charleston County Sheriff's Office

Michael Cooke and his 41-year-old son Bryan were putting the finishing touches on a home for veterans on Matipan Avenue in North Charleston in late February.

Police said around 11 a.m. on February 23, two teens who skipped school that day “simply to rob someone” went into the home the Cookes were working on and shot both of them.

Michael survived. His son Bryan died on scene.

The suspects were later identified as Aaron White and Da’quintez Gadsden, both 18. While White waived his right to have a preliminary hearing, Gadsden had one on Wednesday.

RELATED | Emotional service for a father killed on Matipan Avenue

The court heard from a detective who worked the case before deciding there was enough probable cause for the case to move forward.

The detective walked through what police found when they arrived at the scene, going into great detail in front of a courtroom packed with Michael and Bryan’s family.

“Mr. Cooke was shot several times once to the face,” he testified. “Through his mouth.”

Tears spilled, and Michael knew they would.

It’s something they prepared for.

“There are emotions that come out in those moments,” Michael said. “Emotions are good. They show not only ourselves that we're still alive and we're still moving forward but the God that we trust in is walking that walk with us.”

Michael said his family prepared for court Wednesday by listening to his son’s favorite music.

“Brian lived his life as a very simple person,” he said of his son. “By that I don’t mean he was less than. I actually mean he was more than.”

Family members cringed as they learned that their loved ones had no time to defend themselves.

“They were unarmed,” the detective testified. “It was pretty much a blitz. An ambush.”

Michael, although shot in the mouth, was able to describe his accused shooter to police. The detective told the court that Michael described him as a black male wearing a black hat.

The detectives’ search eventually led them to nearby high school in hopes of finding any students absent or late who matched Michael’s description.

“We ended up finding White and Gadsden came to school late at 11:07 a.m. on the timestamp of the security video that captured them coming into the high school,” the detective said.

Gadsden, the detective testified, was wearing close to what Michael described and tests later confirmed blood on the back of his pants belonged to Bryan.

Michael admits he is still healing, physically and emotionally.

“One day at a time, one step at a time,” he said. “I know those are clichés, but it really is how you live your life.”

Plus, he’s found a new friend to help see him through the tough times ahead.

“I’ve found a brother in spite of tragedy, and as we move on together I’ll be here with Mike and the entire family,” said Thomas Dixon, a pastor and community activist.

One pastor helping another heal.

“It's been a tremendous strength for me,” said Michael.

The detective said White gave a full confession and admitted to pulling the trigger. Gadsden, however, is still charged as a principal in the crime based on Michael’s description and the blood on his clothes, according to police.

Both White and Gadsden are charged with murder, attempted murder, and burglary.

Gadsden did not appear in court on Wednesday. His defense attorney, Jerod Frazier, said he will appear if they request bond.

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