Even now, five years after his murder, Kevin Wilkins' brothers and sisters cry when they remember their older sibling.
Wilkins' father says the younger kids miss Kevin, much like he does, and yet he found a way Monday for his family to move on from the tragedy.
"I don't know how I can say this, but I forgive you," Rodney Wilkins, his voice choking with emotion, told his son's killer. "I think Kevin would have wanted me to forgive you."
The man he forgave, Tyrone Brown, a 22-year-old gang member convicted of killing two people, was standing just a few feet away, awaiting sentencing. He was convicted of killing Harold McCain in January 2011 and Wilkins in June of that same year.
U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny gave Brown 22 years in prison, but not before describing the killings as "cold blooded shootings."
Brown, a member of the Bailey Boys gang, admitted killing McCain and Wilkins and taking part in two other attempted murders as part of a plea agreement that convicted him of racketeering conspiracy and could have sent him to prison for life.
McCain, who also had family members in the courtroom, was shot inside a store on Genesee Street and died at Erie County Medical Center later that day. Wilkins was murdered five months later.
At one point Monday, Brown turned to the victims' families and told them he was sorry for what he had done.
"Thank you," Wilkins' father said later. "I needed that."
Wilkins' willingness to confront Brown at his sentencing and offer his forgiveness struck the judge and lawyers in the courtroom as a "courageous" and "inspiring" gesture.
"What a gift for Mr. Brown," said defense attorney Mark J. Mahoney.
In introducing Wilkins' father to the courtroom, Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan A. Tokash reminded the judge that, unlike him, Brown will have an opportunity to look his son in the eye at some point in the future.
"That's something Mr. Wilkins will never be able to do," Tokash said.
Brown’s Bailey Boys gang operated in a neighborhood bounded by Winspear Avenue, the Kensington Expressway, Eggert Road and Main Street, and later became known for its bloody feud with the LRGP Crew, which the Bailey Boys saw as encroaching on their turf during the summer of 2011.
Brown’s guilty plea is the result of an investigation by the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, the Buffalo Police Department and State Police.